Eclipse Series 10: Silent Ozu—Three Family Comedies

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Michael Kerpan
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#201 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:20 am

movielocke wrote:I saw Lady and the Beard tonight here in Los Angeles and I wonder if any of the japanese experts around here could tell me what was it that the beard kept tied around his waist and often rubbed for good luck. It appeared to be a small wooden tablet engraved with kanji and was attached to a braided cord he kept tied around his waist even when wearing modern clothing..
That was, in fact, some sort of good luck amulet. Typically one buys new ones at Shinto shrines (especially on New Years Day) and throws those for the past year into a bonfire provided by the shrine.

See this.

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#202 Post by movielocke » Mon Mar 17, 2008 1:46 am

I saw Tokyo Chorus tonight, it was great. Now I really can't wait for this set so I can see Passing Fancy. Looking forward to revisiting I Was Born But as well. :)

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#203 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:22 am

While Eclipse can accomodate no extras, found this @ Pompidou Centre, Paris, website, which could be added to a forthcoming Criterion Ozu release... There is also of course a related book by Yoshida Kiju, (referred to below) published in English translation by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan...
Le Monde cinématographique de Yasujirô Ozu selon Kijû Yoshida (Yoshida Kijû ga kataru Ozu Yasujirô no eiga sekai)
de Kijû Yoshida
Japon / 1993 / 445' / coul. / vostf

Ces quatre épisodes ont servi de base au montage de la version courte, Le Cinéma d'Ozu selon Kijû Yoshida. Les titres de ces différentes parties, Répétition et décalage, Quand le cinéma se met à parler, Des images infiniment ouvertes, Pris dans un monde de confusion, annonçaient l'ouvrage que j'ai publié par la suite, Ozu ou l'anti-cinéma.
As it says there are 4 episodes which form the basis also of a separate shortened/condensed version too...
Le cinéma d'Ozu selon Kijû Yoshida (Yoshida Kijû ga kataru Ozu-san no eiga)
de Kijû Yoshida
Japon / 1994 / 59' / coul. / vostf

Ce film commémore le 90e anniversaire de la naissance de Yasujirô Ozu, et le 30e anniversaire de sa mort. Tout en citant abondamment les films d'Ozu, j'ai tâché d'éclairer la vérité de ce que l'on désigne comme « ozuien ». Parce que, du vivant d'Ozu, un événement, comme un tour du destin, nous a réunis lui et moi, j'ai le sentiment d'être ainsi parvenu à enfin respecter une promesse tacite.

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#204 Post by TheRanchHand » Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:06 pm


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#205 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Apr 11, 2008 11:22 pm

In terms of far-gone-ness of parts of Tokyo Chorus -- sadly Tokyo Inn is even closer to almost lost in spots.

Despite the (unavoidable by Criterion) dilapidation, I hope people still will be able to enjoy these films.

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#206 Post by TheRanchHand » Sat Apr 12, 2008 12:39 am

I know that Criterion can't work miracles, so am just happy they did their best to bring films forward that may have otherwise been left to to the art house revivals. I have never been a silent movie fan, but love Ozu so will pick these up.

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#207 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:32 am


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#208 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:38 am

Just a reminder -- "Tokyo Chorus" gives us the earliest available look at Hideko Takamine -- at age 6 or maybe just turned 7 (and without any front teeth). She is a charmer already. But her little part here does nothing to prepare one for her performance half a year later in Shimizu's "Seven Seas".

Another reminder -- my guide to "Passing Fancy" (hopefully it may be useful to someone somewhere).

I just got a copy of Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano's "Nippon Modern" from the library (I asked them to order it -- and they did!). If one doesn't mind negotiating an academic work, this provides a lot of useful background for the films in this set.

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#209 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:08 am

I just bought the set and it looks very good. (It is kind of funny that I got the set one week earlier than its indicated release date. By the way, I didn't buy it online but from a store that imports dvds from the States.) Of course I haven't seen anything yet since I bought the set 3 hours ago but I "sampled" the films and the transfers look better that I expected. But of course, this is purely subjective.

My only complaint, and it is a very minor one, is that all three films come in transparent, slim SCANAVO cases and you have to slightly bend the discs to take them out. In my two other Eclipse box sets, Postwar Kurosawa and Late Ozu, most of the cases are transparent and slim but with different holders and it's a lot easier to get the discs out. ( I think there is one Scanavo case in the Postwar Kurosawa and two in the Late Ozu). I know that it is stupid but I really hate bending my dvds.

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#210 Post by sidehacker » Wed Apr 23, 2008 3:19 pm

Got mine today, looks beautiful. I'll dive into it next weekend (Athens OH film festival this weekend) but I have to ask: does anyone else find it somewhat interesting that the color on the set's spine matches the color spine of Late Ozu. I think we all figured more Ozu was in Eclipse's future but I get the feeling it could be really soon. The bad news is this will more than likely lead to another month full of Ozu-related jokes.

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#211 Post by Murasaki53 » Tue May 06, 2008 4:34 pm


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#212 Post by Franky » Wed May 07, 2008 6:58 am

In the DVD talk review it says based on a story by James Maki. Wasn't James Maki just a pseudonym for Ozu?

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#213 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed May 07, 2008 8:58 am

Franky wrote:In the DVD talk review it says based on a story by James Maki. Wasn't James Maki just a pseudonym for Ozu?
Basically, though I think it sometimes may also have been used for scripts written jointly by Ozu and another collaborator.

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#214 Post by Mike Gebert » Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:26 pm

A little surprised to see that there's so much comment until this set came out... but little since. Okay, I know, who has time to sit and watch three Ozu films as the stack of DVDs gets ever higher. I wrote the following for Nitrateville.com, a discussion site about silent and early talkie films, but since no one else has really reviewed this set in detail here, I'll post it here too.

Silent Ozu: Three Family Comedies

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Though in academic literature on film he ranks very highly indeed, the name Ozu often seems to scare the lay silent film fan off before his films ever manage to get seen. He’s typecast as one of those severe, stark minimalists with dour philosophical preoccupations and a pace like watching milk curdle, like Dreyer or Bresson (who were, in fact, linked with Ozu in a celebrated 70s book by the critic and future filmmaker Paul Schrader). Yet Yasujiro Ozu is very much the odd man out in that group, not least because there’s no explicit religiosity in his films, even if Schrader did detect a “transcendental style” in his later films.

Far from making intellectualized art cinema about God or His absence, Ozu was actually very much a director of ordinary people-- of their little happinesses and disappointments, of the ebb and flow of everyday life. Especially in later years, you went to Ozu for a good cry and reassurance that the world would work out okay in the end (if not for you, for your descendants, because of your sacrifice). The Japanese are supposed to have considered Ozu unsuitable for export because he was “too Japanese,” but that doesn’t mean they thought his style was too rarified and alien for us-- it was just that his movies about family were thought to be too personal, who’d want to see our troubles? Who’d want to share our sorrows? Don’t you have your own?

But set aside the postwar Ozu-- I love those stripped-down, gently sad Early Springs and Late Autumns, but you’re free not to. Before Ozu was Ozu, he was a strikingly different filmmaker, experimenting in a wide range of genres (the way Hitchcock did before he settled on making thrillers), as often comic as he was dramatic or tragic-- and far from being the most Japanese of Japanese filmmakers, he was in many ways the most American-influenced.

He often cited, in interviews, his admiration for Harold Lloyd, Ernst Lubitsch and Frank Capra, and the inspiration he found in American films. Floating Weeds, which he made twice (once in the silent era and once in sound*), was inspired by George Fitzmaurice’s The Barker and King Vidor’s The Stranger’s Return. An Inn at Tokyo, a heartrending neorealist tale of a father and his sons in the depths of the Depression, feels like DeSica a decade later, but was in fact inspired by The Champ. And Leo McCarey’s Make Way For Tomorrow, the tale of an older couple realizing that they need to get out of the way of their children and let the next generation live their lives, was the wellspring for virtually his entire later career.

This is not to say that his sensibility was wholly Americanized. In fact, the outward American inspiration behind his movies ultimately throws the deeply Japanese attitudes at their heart into relief. It’s not that you can’t imagine an American filmmaker making a movie called Where Now Are The Dreams of Youth?-- as a title it would fit The Crowd perfectly well, and It’s a Wonderful Life, too, for that matter-- but you can’t imagine anyone in America making a career out of movies asking that question, making comedy-drama out of the subject of disillusionment and its resigned acceptance, over and over.

Japan, then even more than now, was a stratified society, rigid in its sense of what was proper, very good at stifling the ambition of young men-- especially during the Depression, when Ozu’s career really began to take off, but many other men his age found theirs stalling or hanging by a thread. Where Hollywood movies have always sold the half-myth that you can chase your dreams without disaster, Ozu’s films are rooted in the realism of accepting that it is one’s burden and duty to be beaten down a little over time by life and family obligation. The result is that the melancholic undertone of his comedies can seem shocking, and offputting, at first. But there’s also something bracing about comedies in which things don’t work out easily and perfectly-- that don’t pander, that are sober and a bit stoic about life, and make us laugh more honestly for not trying to bullshit us that we’ll all live happily ever after. After all, that’s part of what we love about Keaton, too-- why we consider him “modern.”

If the later Ozu dramas are an acquired taste, the three silent Ozu family comedies released by Criterion’s sublabel Eclipse in a box set are a taste no one who loves American silent film should have any trouble acquiring. This Ozu is funny, fast-paced and slick, capable of comedy about kids worthy of Our Gang, while at the same time offering ironic, empathetic observations about adult life that will ring true for anyone who has been an adult a while-- and are all the more striking for their rarity in silent film.

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TOKYO CHORUS (1931)

The earliest of the three, and the second oldest Ozu film I’ve seen, Tokyo Chorus seems an important formative film for Ozu but not a greatly successful one. Indeed, except for the fact that you can see the later films coming out of it, it’s hard to justify its place in a box devoted to comedies.

The film opens in a school, where a teacher is drilling some fairly lackadaisical students, among them Okajima (Tokihiko Okada), in military exercises. We jump forward a decade to Okajima’s life as a salaryman with three children; speaking his mind about the firing of an older worker gets him fired too, and failing to come home with a bicycle for the oldest boy earns him strife at home. A series of poignant episodes of straitened home life follow, until at last the prologue’s relevance is made clear: Okajima runs into his old teacher, who has opened a small cafe. The teacher enlists his help in launching the business by walking the streets handing out flyers-- a fall in status which his wife takes hard, but which Okajima adjusts to stoically.

Technically, the title may refer to a song of tribute sung at the end by students to a teacher, but my guess is that Ozu’s attempting to suggest a parallel to American works such as Vidor’s Street Scene or LaCava’s Symphony of Six Million, in which gritty urban reality was itself a kind of modernist artwork. Indeed, the pictures of Depression-era Tokyo, shot on location with the same sort of matter-of-fact realism as Roach comedies, are fascinating, but the episodes of the film, affecting here and there in themselves, don’t really add up to drama.

Part of the reason, I suspect, is that the middle-class Japanese setting never seems clearly dire or desperate to Americans, nor are we likely to feel that something status-altering has happened to the family when Okajima goes around handing out flyers. Some of that is our not being sensitive to the subtler indicators of 1930s Japanese economic status, but it’s also just a fact that these characters are never that bad off. An Inn at Tokyo tells a similar story (or episodic non-story) of day to day struggle in the Depression, but sets it among characters who have become homeless and for whom every day is a struggle and a test of the father’s love and devotion to his children-- and as a result every scene is freighted with anxiety and hope. That just doesn’t happen here.

The print quality is the weakest of the three films, as well, with quite a bit of wear and varying levels of contrast, though it still serves the location photography reasonably well. Donald Sosin contributes a piano score which, to be honest, I found rather too jaunty in places for the drama, as if trying to make the movie into the comedy promised on the box.

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I WAS BORN, BUT (1932)

What’s nascent in Tokyo Chorus suddenly comes into sharp focus in I Was Born, But, Ozu’s first known/surviving masterpiece and an utter charmer, one of the handful of great naturalistic films about childhood along with The Childhood of Maxim Gorky, Shoeshine, Small Change, and My Neighbor Totoro.

Again, the film is episodic, and outwardly, little happens that would normally qualify as plot. But this time the ups-and-downs-of-life flow and pace make perfect sense and engender instant audience sympathy, because the focus is on two school-age boys and their perceptions of the world, which of course are quite a bit different from the reality their parents know.

The family has just moved to a suburb-- houses in a cornfield, basically, linked to the city by train, not at all the Tokyo you expect (except, perhaps, in a Miyazaki cartoon). Ozu’s moving camera** ambles around the neighborhood like the boys, catching them in the process of discovering their neighborhood and shaking out their place in the pecking order with the local kids. These scenes are as unforced and charming as anything in Our Gang, filled with humor and sharp observation of the rituals and social hierarchies of childhood (I was delighted to see that “pinky swearing,” which my own kids picked up somewhere, was practiced in Japan in the 1930s). In particular Tomio Aoki (whose career lasted all the way to Seijun Suzuki’s Pistol Opera in 2001), who has a little pig nose and as wide a mouth as one of Miyazaki’s cartoon children, gives one of the great “kid brother” performances in films, pugnacious and impudent, yet ever ready to stand slightly behind his big brother in a fight.

Status being an ever-present issue in Japan, however, a moment comes when their carefully ordered universe and admiration for their father is shaken by events (which I won’t spoil). And now, like an Our Gang comedy turning into The Crowd (you will have noticed a visual homage to that film earlier), the film shifts perspective to the adults, and gives us the point of view of the father who, like his counterpart in Tokyo Chorus, recognizes the compromises he’s had to make and hopes for something better for his own children. Here the picture of the middle class salaryman’s acceptance of his fate, which had made Tokyo Chorus seem a somewhat drab and downbeat film, adds layers of poignancy and depth to the supposedly carefree picture of childhood that has preceded it. To transition so seamlessly from the simplicity of childhood to the ambiguity and compromise of adult life is as close as we can come to growing up ourselves in the space of a 90-minute movie.

The print, though bearing some marks of wear here and there, is generally in very good shape, and Donald Sosin’s score more closely follows the moods of the film than its predecessor’s did.

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PASSING FANCY (1933)

Perhaps no movie better illustrates Ozu’s debt to American cinema in this period than the comedy-tearjerker Passing Fancy; with its lovable lug protagonist and romantic triangle, it’s easy to imagine it starring Wallace Beery or Edward G. Robinson (depending on studio), with Loretta Young or Ann Sheridan as the girl and Franchot Tone or some other blandly good-looking type as the other fellow. It’s interesting, then, to see the preoccupation of so many of his later films-- self-sacrifice to allow others to reach happiness-- getting a run-through here in such an Americanized way, long before Ozu made it his own in a thoroughly Japanified context.

Passing Fancy represents an important shift in his 1930s work; where earlier films (including the two above) had been about middle-class salarymen and their personal issues, this one drops down a socioeconomic class or two to the proletariat, probably as a result of the influence of Hollywood’s early 30s focus on laborers, roughnecks and blue collar sorts. (You could probably throw Chaplin's Tramp and The Kid in there as well, among the influences.) The most obvious sign of the change is the physical build of the lead character.

In Tokyo Chorus, the lead was a tall, rail-thin actor with a somewhat worried face (aptly enough, as it turned out, as he would be dead of tuberculosis within two years) named Tokihiko Okada. In I Was Born, But, a similar part was taken by an even more beanpolish actor named Tatsuo Saito, who had played (in old age makeup) the teacher in the previous film, and brought a wryer perspective to the role.*** Even in allegedly straitened circumstances, their trim, Jimmy Stewartish builds make them rather dapper leads.

In Passing Fancy, however, a stockier, broad-faced “everyman” named Takeshi Sakamoto-- who had played character roles in both of the earlier films, the older employee who’s let go and a buffoonish higher-up in the company, respectively-- was promoted to lead and would be the star of nearly all of Ozu’s films until the mid-40s, including Floating Weeds and the masterful An Inn at Tokyo. Like Wallace Beery, he’s rough-edged but endearing, and where the struggles of the main character in the previous films had seemed a bit abstract, his life as a roughneck along the margins of Japanese prosperity is as elemental and immediate as Spencer Tracy’s or James Cagney’s in American films of the same period. (He’s reunited with Tomio Aoki as his son, who does indeed seem much more Sakamoto’s mischievous, broad-faced progeny than he did Saito’s.)

Again, the concept of comedy is stretched a bit by Criterion’s billing-- there’s little of the overt gagwork that we had seen in I Was Born, But, merely the gentle, bemused tone you see in Hollywood small town comedies of the period. But Passing Fancy goes over well as a skillfully handled melodrama that produces a few smiles and a few tears, and offers a convincingly homey picture of lower-class Japanese life at the time.

Print quality is excellent except for some scratchiness around (presumably) reel changes, and the Sosin score seems appropriate (even when it diverts into a familiar and very Western theme during the emotional highpoint).

* The Criterion set of that title contains both versions. I posted on AMS about it here.

** Everyone talks about Ozu’s later stationary camera placements at the level of someone sitting on a tatami mat, but has anyone noticed that his early moving camera shots are likewise low to the ground-- which clearly would make no sense in terms of a character sitting (unless it’s ours as the viewer in the movie theater), but does in terms of a child’s eye view.

*** Saito turns up late in life in several Hollywood productions, including Lord Jim and the Shirley Maclaine My Geisha.

This is a good overview of Ozu’s life and career.

Images courtesy Criterion Collection.

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#215 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:52 pm

Welcome to the forum, Mike-- and here's hoping you get to the point where you post over on nitrateville stuff you originally wrote here.

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#216 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jun 21, 2008 11:07 pm

Nice to see yet another Mike here.

I hope you will grow fonder of Tokyo Chorus over time. When I first saw it, it was rather overshadowed by the later silent Ozu films -- but over time, I've begun to prize its virtues too. ;~}

Mike K

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#217 Post by GringoTex » Sat Jun 28, 2008 4:36 pm

Just watched "I was Born, But . . ." which is my first pre-war Ozu. After seeing the few, fantastic dolly shots in "Early Summer," I always wondered why Ozu didn't explore them further in his post war films. Now I know- he'd been there, done that. The lateral tracking shots he designs his editing scheme around are stupendous. This joins Zero for Conduct and Wild Boys of the Road as one of the great early 30s films about childhood.

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#218 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:29 pm

GringoTex wrote:Just watched "I was Born, But . . ." which is my first pre-war Ozu. After seeing the few, fantastic dolly shots in "Early Summer," I always wondered why Ozu didn't explore them further in his post war films. Now I know- he'd been there, done that. The lateral tracking shots he designs his editing scheme around are stupendous. This joins Zero for Conduct and Wild Boys of the Road as one of the great early 30s films about childhood.
The camera work in I Was Born But is positively tame compared to Ozu's most remarkable efforts (in things like Walk Cheerfully). One finds similar experiments in Shimizu's films of this era.

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#219 Post by movielocke » Tue Jul 15, 2008 2:21 pm

I wish we had more Eclipse Ozu sets so we had things like Walk Cheerfully, Only Son and There Was a Father available (the latter two should probably be Criterions though).

Thanks for posting your thoughts/reviews Mike, I'll finally post something when I get to Passing Fancy in the next couple weeks. :)

Passing Fancy is exceptional. I was especially impressed by the editing style that rarely indicates who is speaking when an intertitle pops up. It's quite natural and elegant, sort of an evolved silent grammer I've not seen used before, and it's an interesting way to bridge the traditional shot/reverse shot of dialogue scenes. In some ways, it sort of explains to me why Ozu doesn't use the traditional over the shoulder shots (rather shooting speakers straight on) because he developed this way of shooting with the idea of an intertitle between characters, scenes and so on. I found it interesting how this film revisits the child with an illness scenario from Tokyo Chorus, but this time makes it more tragic and layers on top of it the poor decisions of Kihachi regarding abandoning his son to pay for the medical expenses. There seemed to be quite a lot of criticism of the traditional japanese sense of honor and pride that would suggest this is a proper & honorable decision to make. I think it's interesting how Ozu ends the film on a high note (which is appropriate to the character) rejecting the traditional view. It's interesting how when he later comes back to this idea in Late Spring but takes the opposite approach to the ending. In Late Spring Ozu has them live out the wrong decision of Noriko's father making the honorable, but wrong choice for his daughter. There is no reversal, or 'coming to his senses'. It's fascinating to see the same conflict with traditional expectations of Japanese society played out before and after the war, and the varying perspectives that Ozu brings at the different stages of his career.

Your guide was an excellent help, Michael. I had no idea what the money purse at the beginning of the film was until you explained it out.
Michael Kerpan wrote:Just a reminder -- "Tokyo Chorus" gives us the earliest available look at Hideko Takamine -- at age 6 or maybe just turned 7 (and without any front teeth). She is a charmer already. But her little part here does nothing to prepare one for her performance half a year later in Shimizu's "Seven Seas".
Since IMDb lists seventeen different Shimizu's as a director and I've yet to find a post where you also mention his first name are you referring to Hiroshi Shimizu?

I narrowed it down to him by trying a joint venture search between each of the Shimizu directors and Hideko Takamine, that's the only one that provided any hits, three films together, none of them are called Seven Seas, but two don't have English translations of their titles, so which film are you referring to?

1. Jônetsu - La passion (1932) aka Passion (1932) (Japan: English title)
2. Nanatsu no umi: Kohen Teiso-hen (1932)
3. Nanatsu no umi: Zempen Shojo-hen (1931)

Thanks, I've never heard of this director before and am quite curious because of it.

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#220 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 15, 2008 2:35 pm

movielocke wrote:Since IMDb lists seventeen different Shimizu's as a director and I've yet to find a post where you also mention his first name are you referring to Hiroshi Shimizu?

I narrowed it down to him by trying a joint venture search between each of the Shimizu directors and Hideko Takamine, that's the only one that provided any hits, three films together, none of them are called Seven Seas, but two don't have English translations of their titles, so which film are you referring to?

1. Jônetsu - La passion (1932) aka Passion (1932) (Japan: English title)
2. Nanatsu no umi: Kohen Teiso-hen (1932)
3. Nanatsu no umi: Zempen Shojo-hen (1931)

Thanks, I've never heard of this director before and am quite curious because of it.
Yes, when I say "Shimizu" (and am discussing directors), I mean Hiroshi Shimizu.

Footnote: There is, however, yet another Hiroshi Shimizu who is a (contemporary) director. This modern Shimizu worked with Kitano, before making his own films. Apparently, this HS is NOT related to the older one.

"Nanatsu no umi" is translated as "The Seven Seas" (all the seas in the world, presumably). This film was released in two parts, in succeeding weeks (probably -- as was the custom). So both IMDB entries really refer to one integral film, split down the middle (more or less).

As far as I know, Jonetsu doesn't survive. (I've never seen reference to an existing copy).

Both Ozu and Mizoguchi had high praise for Shimizu's work. Apparently Prof. Sharon Hayashi (from York University in Toronto) is at work on a book about Shimizu's "road films".
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#221 Post by zedz » Tue Jul 15, 2008 5:21 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Yes, when I say "Shimizu" (and am discussing directors), I mean Hiroshi Shimizu.

Footnote: There is, however, yet another Hiroshi Shimizu who is a (contemporary) director. This modern Shimizu worked with Kitano, before making his own films. Apparently, this HS is NOT related to the older one.
Hiroshi Shimizu Redux was responsible for The Grudge, of Hollywood remake infamy, I think.

For more discussion about the late, great Hiroshi Shimizu: A New Hope, see here.

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#222 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Jul 15, 2008 6:42 pm

zedz wrote:Hiroshi Shimizu Redux was responsible for The Grudge, of Hollywood remake infamy, I think.
Takashi Shimizu is the Grudge guy, the Kitano-associated Hiroshi Shimizu is this guy.

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#223 Post by Matt » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:53 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:** Everyone talks about Ozu’s later stationary camera placements at the level of someone sitting on a tatami mat, but has anyone noticed that his early moving camera shots are likewise low to the ground-- which clearly would make no sense in terms of a character sitting (unless it’s ours as the viewer in the movie theater), but does in terms of a child’s eye view.
I don't know if it's addressed in his book on Ozu (it may be mentioned in On the History of Film Style), but David Bordwell pointed this out (using I Was Born, But... as the example) in a class I took with him, oh, 9 years ago. If I remember correctly, he cited it specifically as proof against the ubiquitous statement that Ozu's preference for low angles was meant to mimic the POV of someone kneeling on a tatami mat. He may have argued that Ozu's preference for low angles was an example of decorative style not necessarily motivated by any particular reference point or tradition, but don't hold me to that.

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#224 Post by cysiam » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:16 pm

I'm reading Japanese Film Directors right now and Bock says that the camera placement is not that of a person seated on the floor. It averages 1 1/2 feet off the floor in medium shots which would be lower than eye level of a seated person.

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#225 Post by Rufus T. Firefly » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:12 pm

I recall somebody somewhere stating that it was a way of reminding the audience that they were watching a film and not participating in it, with this low angle accentuated by having to look up at it on the big screen (an effect you don't normally get when watching Ozu on TV). The same was said of his use of mismatched eyelines, so that the viewer would not think that they were present in the film space but were observing from outside. I've seen a photo of Ozu looking through the camera when setting up a shot - he was horizontal with his head practically on the floor.

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