Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#251 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:54 pm

continued -- from another forum
knives wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:
knives wrote: Of the four Ozu's I've seen three of them felt like they could shave ten minutes off and be a better film. Not to say that would actually make them better films.
I can't think of any Ozu film that I wish was shorter -- not even Munekata Sisters. I would say pretty much every frame is warranted.
Early Spring? That's the only one I could actually say a specific thing was just filler. He also, from what I've seen, suffers from too many climaxes. That said he is one of my favorite directors from just the late set.
I think Early Spring is a bit long. But I don't think much could (if anything) be shaved off.

I think Ozu _avoids_ most climaxes that others would include. I can't think of any major late film that has "too many climaxes".

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#252 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:07 pm

The single Ozu I felt could have used some tightening is Early Spring-- I think I'd have to agree with Knives on this one. Definitely my least favorite of all the post LATE SPRING films.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#253 Post by knives » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:10 pm

For me an example of too many endings is the near perfect The End of Summer. All those scenes as they are played out are needed, but that doesn't prevent the feeling that it has a climax, and then another climax, follow by a few more climaxes. I wouldn't take anything out, but it does leave that feeling, and I suppose that is what I'm getting at.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#254 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:27 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:The single Ozu I felt could have used some tightening is Early Spring-- I think I'd have to agree with Knives on this one. Definitely my least favorite of all the post LATE SPRING films.
You have yet to see Munekata Sisters. Right? ;~}

I am very fond of this one -- just like all the others (except MS).

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#255 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:30 pm

knives wrote:For me an example of too many endings is the near perfect The End of Summer. All those scenes as they are played out are needed, but that doesn't prevent the feeling that it has a climax, and then another climax, follow by a few more climaxes. I wouldn't take anything out, but it does leave that feeling, and I suppose that is what I'm getting at.
But all those climaxes are an essential part of the fun in the formal game Ozu plays in this film. My only real objection is the inappropriately over-dramatic music that accompanies some of the climaxes. (I wonder if Ozu did not get to have the final word on the music for this non-Shochiku film).

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#256 Post by knives » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:36 pm

I agree that it is needed. Maybe I'll appreciate it better after digging through some more Ozu.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#257 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:36 pm

I still need to get to that one-- Hen In The Wind, Toda Family, Munekata, and a few of the extant silents-- I have the bulk of them, but haven't knocked them off my kevyip yet (damnable me and my first world indulgences!). I'll report in on it later this week. I know a lot of people speak highly of that film.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#258 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:54 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:I still need to get to that one-- Hen In The Wind, Toda Family, Munekata, and a few of the extant silents-- I have the bulk of them, but haven't knocked them off my kevyip yet (damnable me and my first world indulgences!). I'll report in on it later this week. I know a lot of people speak highly of that film.
The problem with Munekata Sisters is that it is dialog-bound. Possibly unique in Ozu's body of films, he was obliged here to carry over huge chunks of (wordy) dialog from a literary source (a recent best-seller, more or less).

Not a big fan of Toda Family -- but I think Hen in the Wind is amazing (despite some flaws).

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#259 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:55 am

I haven;t gotten to Munekata Sisters (kevip is so tall right now I have to wear bottled oxygen just to breathe properly up there; I miss the quaint days when I merely hdta rappel down from a low-hovering helicopter to get to the top), but I did just get to A Hen In The Wind for the first time.

Good heavens what a film. Incredible the sense of power, mood and atmopshere achieved through this delicate montage, and the sense of discovery achieved via his amazingly intuitive and intelligent (obviously not the same thing) mise en scene. Incredible also that a narrative so full of potential for gooey overblown pathos is always perfectly handled (but for one or two of what I felt were too many one quarter views of a brooding Shûji Sano shot from behind and to the side, just capturing a sliver of his gloomy expression), never overplaying the hand but at the same time never locking the sense of suffering down under a larger-picture viewpoint, which the film does indeed quite rightly express, that this is merely one of many tales of woe (exemplified of course by the young prostitute in the Sakarai house) in these times of intense difficulty and strife.

A beautiful ode to the struggling postwar populace in Japan-- every bit as effective in this sense as Ladri d biciclette was for Italy.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#260 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:03 am

People have criticize Hen in the Wind for presenting the bordello as too neat and clean, but I think one of Ozu's most brilliant (and devastating) strokes is showing (right after the anodyne shot of clean sheets) just how disgusting Tanaka's client is in the way he eats his post-coital snack.

This film has a sort of messiness in both movement and scene settings that (I think) prefigures Imamura's work. Ironically, it does not appear that Imamura saw this particular Ozu film (in his younger days, at least).

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#261 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:49 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
This film has a sort of messiness in both movement and scene settings.
I'm not sure if I catch your meaning here, but there definitely is a tone of dilapidation that curiously bleeds to and fro between the mise en scene and the physical elements of the film's visual surface. Not sure if what I mean is getting across... best way I can sum it up:

when Fairbanks was in preproduction for the early 2-strip technicolor BLACK PIRATE, he told his cinematographer that he wanted the color images to have an antique look to them, like they'd been photographed hundreds of years prior, buried, then dug up out of the dirt, and then projected.. whereby a patina of age would soak the visuals.

That's kind of what I mean here-- not age but poverty-- there's a tone of decay that pervades the overall feel of the film. A melancholic feel connected to the frugal, impoverished lives of the characters and their surroundings. Yet at the same time the interiors are dignified and never squalid.

As to his technique there are points where his montage, I felt, were a touch overdone: the above- mentioned shots of the husband brooding. And some of his "pillow shots" felt curiously blank for me, which almost never happens for me in Ozu-- I always feel his intention as the images linger or pile up on one another. In this case there were one or two brief moments where they felt slightly blank. Minor quibbles however.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#262 Post by aox » Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:45 am

Herrshreck and Zedz had a spirited debate in the Silent Ozu thread about the Eclipse Ozu releases from a few years back. It's a fascinating read in both interpretations of the Eclipse mission. Is Eclipse a dumping ground for huge director's lesser works, or a ways of getting out lesser known director's major works. At the time, there were only 10 releases (to be fair, a director represented twice in 10 releases is overkill) and I think the past two years have shown both members' interpretations to be correct. One thing that struck out to me was another member's statement about how the Ozu releases initially should have been switched. That the Silent Ozu shouldn't have been second to receive the ire because it was more in line with the Eclipse mission statement and the Late Ozu box was actually out of place. I can't agree with this more. Even two years later. The more I get into this Late Ozu set, the less I understand why Criterion put this Eclipse Set out. These are standalone films that really merit mainline releases. While this set is very welcome and I would gladly buy it again, I don't see these as in-tune with the Eclipse mission statement, unlike the Ozu Silent box. Perhaps Criterion just wanted to get them out in a rush to be seen. They are perhaps the most altruistic company on the planet, so I don't think that is too naive to assume.

I watched Tokyo Twilight last night.

This was incredible, and is now my second favorite Ozu film after An Autumn Afternoon. However, had I not see this film within the context of Ozu's work, I don't think I would have appreciated it nearly as much... It's dark. REAL dark. And borders on melodrama. I can't remember many scenes that happen during the daylight hours. It is his body of work that allows this to shine IMO. A diamond in the rough covered in oil. I am not convinced that Ozu has any regard for the younger generation with this film, and it is the first time I have felt that way. He pushes Akiko around like a pawn throughout, but Ineko Arima does such a great job as Akiko that you feel every minute of suffering and sympathize with her plight. Even Ineko Arima herself seems to be internally screaming that she wants out of this film. Her character would seem to be a warning about the coming 60s, but that isn't Ozu. His work is timeless, and of course Akiko has been well represented in every generation since humans first stood up. Early Spring and this are fantastic and I can't wait to get to the other three.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#263 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:27 am

> I am not convinced that Ozu has any regard for the younger generation with this film,
> and it is the first time I have felt that way.

I agree with your high valuation of the film, but strenuously (yet, I hope, respectfully) disagree with your interpretation.

I don't think Ozu ever loved any of his characters more than he did Akiko -- and I don't think he ever (before or after) allowed himself to display such anger at the betrayal of the young by their elders. The mood underlying this film is not far from that underlying the more overtly "rebellious" sun tribe films. Yes, Akiko is "pushed around" -- and that's precisely the problem that Ozu sees (and shows us). As was the case in some earlier films, WW2 lurks in the background. The father has important character flaws in his own right, but maybe even more important, he was absent much too often during his children's early years -- due to helping implement Japan's industrial aims in occupied territory. And Japan economic imperialism similarly links to the mother's disappearance for so long (she and her new lover went to Manchuria in pursuit of what they thought would be prosperity).

The problem for Akiko is not her "modernity" but her isolation. The father is fundamentaly selfish and relatively lazy (and yet is clearly abstractly intelligent and not affirmatively mean-spirited). Just as he pushed his oler daughter into a disastrous marriage (advantageous to him -- and clearly easy to arrange), he has left his daughter to drift (probably since childhood). He justifies this (in his mind) as giving her independence -- but clearly having to deal with the problems of his children is an unpleasant burden.

The strained relationship between the sisters arose due to the fact that the older one was essentially obliged to "mother" the younger one ever since childhood, despite being only a few years older. Cognitive dissonance has made the older sister almost pathologically protective of her father -- despite the massive damage he has caused.

No time for anymore (until tonight).

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#264 Post by aox » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:11 pm

Thanks so much for your continued insight Michael. You posit a completely convincing argument and have really made me reevaluate my screening last night.

I am sure that I am not the first person to notice this, but it seems to me to be deliberate and important. Ozu (at least in English translation) loves to place his films, or at least name them, based on their seasons. Typically spring and summer, and of course autumn for his final film. I think I have seen you get annoyed at this because sometimes the films don't match their seasons literally. Be that as it may, is it fair to say this is Ozu's only film to take place in the dead of winter? Ozu is very specific about showing this when the father comes in from the blizzard. It makes sense to me thematically since this is his darkest film (based on reputation), and most of the film takes place at night. Perhaps a more appropriate title for the film would have been "Late Winter" in pure Ozu-fashion? :wink:

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#265 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:23 pm

Ozu's first surviving film (Days iof Youth) is set in winter -- and is very light in nature. ;~}

I seem to recall some snow in another earlier film -- one that had a more extended time line (Mother Should Be Loved, maybe?).

I was surprised on my last viewing of Tokyo Twilight that there were many more non-night-time scenes than I recalled. So pervasive is the atmosphere of gloom....

The plethora of simple seasonal titles in Ozu is an American creation -- I'll stick with Tokyo Twilight.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#266 Post by aox » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:31 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote: The plethora of simple seasonal titles in Ozu is an American creation -- I'll stick with Tokyo Twilight.
I figured it was. Is there anywhere to find the literal translations from Japanese to English? Any thoughts on why those weren't used?

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#267 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:37 pm

Bordwell's book might provide this -- otherwise ask me (when I have more time than I do now).

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#268 Post by manicsounds » Sat Jul 24, 2010 10:03 am

Some of them unusual translations:

An Autumn Afternoon: "The Taste of Pacific Saury" (Saury's writing includes the character of "Autumn")

The End Of Summer: "Kohayagawa Family's Autumn" (yes, the Japanese title has Autumn...)

Early Summer: "Barley Autumn" (Yup, more Autumn...)

The rest of the "Seasonal" films have the literal title more or less.
you're welcome.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#269 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jul 24, 2010 10:07 pm

Bakushu is more like "Barley-harvest-time" -- barley traditionally being the first grain crop of the agricultural year in Japan. I believe this typically occurs in (early) July (exact time varies by region).

Sanma is also known as mackerel pike. It is a seasonal delicacy associated with early autumn.

Akibiyori is actually something like "fine autumn weather" or "lovely fall day" -- it has a very different feel from "Late Autumn" (which suggests more a sense of sadness)

Higanbana yields Equinox and Flower when broken up -- but is actually the Japanese name for "red spider lily", a member of the amaryllis family which blooms in late September. Higan is both a Buddhist ceremony performed at both equinoxes and the term for "the other shore" (tied with the transition from one life to the next).

Late Spring and Early Spring are completely unproblematic.

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Re:

#270 Post by aox » Thu Aug 19, 2010 2:46 pm

I hit up the third film of the box this week, Equinox Flower. Excellent film, and perhaps his funniest post-sound film (EDIT: seems like I am in for a treat with Late Autumn after reading the last few pages)? The bar scenes...the playful tricking of the father...etc. so great.
HerrSchreck wrote:I'm in ecstacy, having just watched Equinox Flower for the first time in my life. Having seen hints of Ozu's silly humor in peeks and snatches, his quirky side is in full bloom in this wonderful, emotionally resonant, full-on masterpiece. Cinematographically, performancewise, everythingwise, this is one of the most "complete" film worlds I've ever witnessed take shape. A perfectly shaped universe in two hours.

I love that this came right after Tokyo Twilight.
I agree. Tokyo Twilight is my second favorite Ozu film at this point, but talk about a 180 degree turn.

It also seems to me that Ozu just loved working with color despite me reading that he was so apprehensive about using it in the first place. I can't wait to see this one in HD. His use of color and contrast just hit me over the head with this film in ways An Autumn Afternoon, Good Morning, and Floating Weeds didn't.
GringoTex wrote:Just watched Tokyo Twilight. This is Ozu's film noir. It contains what may be the most shocking instance of screen violence I've ever seen. Absolute masterpiece.
I just saw this movie a few weeks ago, but I am straining to recall any 'on-screen' violence. What scene?

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Re: Re:

#271 Post by reno dakota » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:21 pm

aox wrote:
GringoTex wrote:Just watched Tokyo Twilight. This is Ozu's film noir. It contains what may be the most shocking instance of screen violence I've ever seen. Absolute masterpiece.
I just saw this movie a few weeks ago, but I am straining to recall any 'on-screen' violence. What scene?
Good question. And, sticking with Ozu, does the scene in question outdo the scene in A Hen in the Wind were:
SpoilerShow
Shuji Sano throws Kinuyo Tanaka down the stairs? :shock:

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#272 Post by zedz » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:32 pm

My vote for Ozu's funniest sound film goes to The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice, a sharp, funny and ultimately very moving portrait of a marriage, and I agree with aox on Ozu's use of colour. It's as if his apprehension and delay resulted in him being determined to make the technology count when he did adopt it. Much the same thing could be said about his adoption of sound: when he finally does adopt it, it's immediately an essential part of his developing aesthetic, not just a more or less functional add-on.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#273 Post by aox » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:40 pm

My girlfriend (who has never seen an Ozu film) came home from work while I was watching Equinox Flower. She walked in right when Ozu is doing a panoramic view of the City with the RCA building, then cut to a knee-high shot of the alley outside the bar with all of the neon signs. She saw these shots, the quick bar scene that followed, and then back to the protagonist's home with the bright red tea-pot. Though she then got up to go change, she even commented as she was walking out of the room that "this director is almost abusing his 'color' privileges!". I laughed and said, "this was his first color film, he's obviously giddy over the new technology".

Anyway, this isn't even in my top-5 Ozu; however, it might be the one film of his I am dying to see in HD first.

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#274 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:25 pm

Ozu did not object to use of color in films per se -- he objected to the color film stock that was available (and being used) in Japanese films. When he determined that Agfa was finally able to provide color film which met his (rigorous) standards, he adopted Agfacolor and never looked back towards black and white film making (unlike most of his peers who did revert to black and white from time to time).

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Re: Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

#275 Post by jojo » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:56 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:I think Early Spring is a bit long. But I don't think much could (if anything) be shaved off.
Watching it again recently, I think the lukewarm response to ES is because of its rather somber tone. Stretched out over its length, that can be a bit of a tough going at times. Tokyo Twilight remedies that with the use of melodrama, which helps keeps things moving along. But ES is sort of a slow disintegration of a relationship (or, some might say, several of them) and is not leavened by much of Ozu's characteristic humour.

But I still think ES is one of my faves of the Late Ozu box.

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