Eclipse Series 10: Silent Ozu—Three Family Comedies

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peerpee
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Eclipse Series 10: Silent Ozu—Three Family Comedies

#1 Post by peerpee » Fri Dec 31, 2004 3:13 am

ECLIPSE SERIES 10: SILENT OZU—THREE FAMILY COMEDIES

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In the late twenties and early thirties, Yasujiro Ozu was working steadily for Shochiku studios, honing his craft on dozens of silent films in various genres, from romantic melodramas to college comedies to gangster pictures—and, of course, movies about families. In these three droll domestic films—Tokyo Chorus, I Was Born, But . . . , and Passing Fancy, presented here with all-new scores by renowned silent-film composer Donald Sosin—Ozu movingly and humorously depicts middle-class struggles and the resentments between children and parents, establishing the emotional and aesthetic delicacy with which he would transform the landscape of cinema.


I Was Born, But . . .

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One of Ozu's most popular films, I Was Born But . . . is a blithe portrait of the financial and psychological toils of one family, as told from the rascally point of view of a couple of stubborn little boys. For two brothers, the daily struggles of bullies and mean teachers is nothing next to the mortification they feel when they realize their good-natured father’s low-rung social status. Reworked decades later as Ozu's Technicolor comedy Good Morning, it's a poignant evocation of the tumult of childhood, as well as a showcase for Ozu's expertly timed comedy editing.


Passing Fancy

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The first of many films featuring the endearing single-dad Kihachi (played wonderfully by Takeshi Sakamoto), Passing Fancy is a humorous and heartfelt study of a close, if fraught, father-son relationship. With an ever more sophisticated visual style and understanding of fragile human relationships, Ozu seamlessly weaves rib-tickling comedy and weighty family drama for this distinguished precursor to a brilliant career.


Tokyo Chorus

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Combining three prevalent genres of the day—the student comedy, the salaryman film, and the domestic drama—Ozu created this warmhearted family comedy, and demonstrated that he was truly coming into his own as a cinema craftsman. The setup is simple: Low wage–earning dad Okajima is depending on his bonus, and so are his wife and children, yet payday doesn't exactly go as planned. Exquisite and economical, Ozu's film alternates between brilliantly mounted comic sequences and heartrending working-class realities.



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Prior to this month's THE KING OF KINGS you have to go back to October 2001 and HAXAN to find a release dedicated to a film from the silent era (THE STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS was tacked to FLOATING WEEDS, and the Brakhage isn't "silent era").

Prior to HAXAN, the figures aren't too good either.... just PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC and NANOOK.

So there are just 4 x Criterion releases dedicated to silent films... that's a piss weak 1.4% of the collection!

Roll on the EISENSTEIN SILENTS BOX and the OZU SILENTS BOX! Oh... and THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE! (and NAPOLEON!) :)
Last edited by peerpee on Mon Jan 17, 2005 11:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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devlinnn
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#2 Post by devlinnn » Fri Dec 31, 2004 3:43 am

Just turn the sound down and you'll have your 100% quota.

Thanks for the year Nick, keep up the MOC madness!

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#3 Post by unclehulot » Fri Dec 31, 2004 10:35 am

And I believe Criterion controls the fate of Dreyer's Master of the House (run during the TCM Dreyer festival with a Janus title card), but have apparently put it way on the back burner.

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#4 Post by Narshty » Fri Dec 31, 2004 12:25 pm

Criterion should definitely do Metropolis. Does anyone know why they haven't done it yet? Same goes for Saving Private Ryan.

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#5 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Dec 31, 2004 12:47 pm

Not only is the silent (but with synchronized Shostakovich score) "New Babylon" in need of a DVD release, the semi-silent "Alone" has been restored recently -- and might be ripe for DVD ttreatment.

MEK

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#6 Post by peerpee » Fri Dec 31, 2004 1:10 pm

I'm wondering if there just isn't a producer at Criterion who is into silents.
Silents sell really poorly. This must be a (sad) factor in things, but with the amount of skill and the level of quality that Criterion bring to each release, I'm sure they could raise the bar here and turn things around --- particularly because many American major studios don't seem to give a rat's knackers about their silent films. It needs a big push, anyway.

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#7 Post by denti alligator » Fri Dec 31, 2004 1:37 pm

A silent Lubitsch set would be nice, too: The Doll, The Oyster Princess, The Love Parade, etc. Or more Flaherty, since Nanook is already in the collection. Moana would be nice.

Other titles that would make me jump and shriek if they appeared with the Criterion banner:

von Sternberg's Docks of New York
Vidor's Big Parade (or is this already available?)
Stroheim's Merry Widow
more Clair (like Un chapeau de paille d'Italie)

and of course Page of Madness.

I also think a Hitchcock set is needed. There are dozens of cheap DVDs of his silents, but none worth buying. Hitch's first film, The Pleasure Garden, is not even available on DVD.

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#8 Post by peerpee » Fri Dec 31, 2004 1:58 pm

denti alligator wrote:I also think a Hitchcock set is needed. There are dozens of cheap DVDs of his silents, but none worth buying. Hitch's first film, The Pleasure Garden, is not even available on DVD.
It's a real possibility from Criterion, because of their good relationship with Studio Canal who are releasing this in March:

Alfred HITCHCOCK box sets - #1: The Ring (1927), Champagne (1928), The Farmer's Wife (1928), Manxman (1929); box set #2: Blackmail (1929), Murder! (1930), The Skin Game (1931); box set #3: Rich and Strange (1931), Number Seventeen (1932), Foreign Correspondent (1940) - Studio Canal R2 France

From MoC's DVD Calendar

cbernard

#9 Post by cbernard » Fri Dec 31, 2004 2:30 pm

denti alligator wrote:A silent Lubitsch set would be nice, too: The Doll, The Oyster Princess, The Love Parade, etc.
I think The Love Parade is a sound film. But I could be wrong!

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#10 Post by denti alligator » Fri Dec 31, 2004 3:01 pm

You're right, Love Parade is a talkie. My mistake.

We forgot about Pandora's Box, which is pretty much a definite release, right.

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#11 Post by Theodore R. Stockton » Fri Dec 31, 2004 7:49 pm

It is my understanding from the Hitchcock Traffaut book that Pleasure Garden is not a good film at all and has been destroyed. Unless, a print of it has surfaced since that book has last been updated I wouldn't count on seeing it anytime soon.

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#12 Post by Martha » Fri Dec 31, 2004 8:48 pm

This is said without anger or bitterness, but this thread is going to be closed very soon unless it suddenly becomes more than just another place for random speculation (which is quite welcome, it just goes here.). If anyone wants to discuss specific silents or silents on dvd in general, feel free to open some new threads in the DVD section of the forum.
Last edited by Martha on Fri Dec 31, 2004 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#13 Post by zedz » Fri Dec 31, 2004 8:48 pm

I agree that there are a number of high-profile silents (or silents by directors with established Criterion profiles) that could be commercially feasible. Metropolis is the obvious one, though it's far from my favourite Lang. If the existing Ozu titles are doing well, a tidy box of various Ozu silents should also be possible.

The Shostakovich score for New Babylon is magnificent and could surely be turned into a selling point for a disc.

The Floating Weeds piggyback strategy is fine by me (and let's not forget that Paris Qui Dort has also snuck into the collection even more surreptitiously) and there are several possibilities there: the sound and silent versions of Blackmail, for example.

Given the pace of silent releases so far, however, I reckon we'll be lucky to get anything other than the Eisenstein box this year.

Wishlist-wise, I second the Kinugasa suggestion (if any film is going to convince people that silent cinema still has plenty to teach us, it's Page of Madness) and would love to see a bundle of Sjostrom and Stiller.

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#14 Post by luxetnox » Fri Dec 31, 2004 9:02 pm

Theodore, the Silent Era website states on its Pleasure Garden page that a print exists. Also, this site claims to sell it on dvd and vhs.

To be frank, I purchased King of Kings for one reason only - to give my one little vote for silent film from Criterion. I'm sure, though, that my vote will be miscounted as a vote against the new liberal sex education laws in Montgomery county schools.

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#15 Post by peerpee » Fri Dec 31, 2004 9:03 pm

matt wrote:I'm wondering if there just isn't a producer at Criterion who is into silents.
Well, Issa Clubb did HAXAN and THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. All eyes on Issa! :)

I think "silent box sets" are the way to go (rather than the release of single films --- unless we're talking about NAPOLEON or THE WIND of course!). A box set of silents by a particular director is a wonderfully satisfying and edifying piece of kit.

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#16 Post by denti alligator » Sat Jan 01, 2005 1:36 am

I don't see what's so exciting about The Wind. I must be in the minority here, judging from its high placement on the CC Forum Silent Era list.
It is my understanding from the Hitchcock Traffaut book that Pleasure Garden is not a good film at all and has been destroyed. Unless, a print of it has surfaced since that book has last been updated I wouldn't count on seeing it anytime soon.
I enjoyed The Pleasure Garden quite a bit. It's certainly a cut above mediocre. The print I saw looked great, only it had burnt in Japanese subs (I think it's an "unofficial" release).

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#17 Post by htdm » Mon Jan 03, 2005 5:00 am

Theodore R. Stockton wrote:It is my understanding from the Hitchcock Traffaut book that Pleasure Garden is not a good film at all and has been destroyed. Unless, a print of it has surfaced since that book has last been updated I wouldn't count on seeing it anytime soon.
Pleasure Garden is definitely around and was shown on Arte TV in Europe several years ago. I liked it much more than some of his other silents (like Champagne).

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#18 Post by BWilson » Mon Jan 03, 2005 3:21 pm

I just wanted to point out that there are some other silents in the CC that haven't been mentioned, but they are shorts. Two Rene Clair films and a Lubitsch.

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#19 Post by peerpee » Mon Jan 17, 2005 11:22 pm

from ozuyasujiro.com
January 18, 2005
OZU IN SEATTLE
The Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, WA (USA) will be having a huge, 5-week Ozu retrospective from Feb 3 to March 11, 2005. During that time, they will be doing NOTHING BUT OZU, showing 10 silents with live accompaniment from internationally-renowned musicians such as Wayne Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, John Atkins (formerly of the rock band 764-HERO), Lori Goldston (of the Black Cat Orchestra) and Elizabeth Falconer (one of the West Coast's foremost players of the Koto), the Aono Jikken Ensemble, Carla Torgerson (of the alt-country band The Walkabouts), and more.

The series kicks off with I Was Born, But... on Feb 3. All the soundtracks that are being commissioned for this series will be recorded by Chroma Studios for use on upcoming DVD releases from the Criterion Collection.

Their website is nwfilmforum.org with a special Ozu page

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#20 Post by denti alligator » Tue Jan 18, 2005 10:16 am

Wow. So we should expect something like a massive Ozu Silents box set...?

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#21 Post by Keaton » Tue Jan 18, 2005 10:56 am

denti alligator wrote:So we should expect something like a massive Ozu Silents box set...?
I would love it, but all the same I doubt it. If that would happen, it would be a big surprise for me, but I don't believe many people would buy a set like this...and criterion possibly knows that too. Though, I pray for a "Silent Ozu Set"!

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#22 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jan 18, 2005 11:36 am

...if Criterion passes on the Ozu silents.

MEK

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#23 Post by Cinephrenic » Tue Jan 18, 2005 1:42 pm

They may release two boxsets for his silents; Volume 1 & 2, or something along that line. But I doubt that too. I really wonder how they will manage to get his stuff out. It would have to exceed any other director's work in the collection. I really don't see any Ozu films as a HVe. Not that it's bad, but his works are so important to pass up as a Criterion. We just have to wait and see.

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#24 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Tue Jan 18, 2005 2:43 pm

peerpee wrote:from ozuyasujiro.com
OZU IN SEATTLE

The series kicks off with I Was Born, But... on Feb 3. All the soundtracks that are being commissioned for this series will be recorded by Chroma Studios for use on upcoming DVD releases from the Criterion Collection.
We here in Seattle are quite excited for this series. The music should be great, and in fact a few Ozu silent shorts have shown here with similar musical accompaniments in the recent past (which were preceded by Janus logos). However, I must say I've never heard any mention of the Chroma recordings having any affiliation with Criterion. Until the above quote, that is. If its true, that's fantastic, but nothing we locals are hearing from the NWFF here indicates that. Course it could be that it's being kept quiet until official, as with all things Criterion....

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#25 Post by zedz » Tue Jan 18, 2005 4:16 pm

I'm optimistic that a silent Ozu box (or a series of double features, or bonuses on future releases of sound films, or anything) would be viable for Criterion. Their recent work with Ozu is surely raising his profile and creating a modest market for such product, and any such box would have a long shelf life. Who knows, maybe the Floating Weeds set has sold surprisingly well?

I would expect that anything like a box set would come towards the end of their Ozu release schedule, though, and that we'd be getting it some considerable time after the Eisenstein box (which is surely the next cab off the rank in terms of ambitious silent projects for them).

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