Yasujiro Ozu

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Michael Kerpan
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#51 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Dec 23, 2004 10:09 pm

dmkb wrote:the sight of her appearing slightly bent over and noticeably
wrinkled was sad.
Well -- Kinuyo Tanaka, even when aged, was still very special. "Late Autumn"shows that Hara could have moved to an older age level in films. I wish she had. But, I 'm glad that almost everyone in Japan respects her privacy.

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#52 Post by artfilmfan » Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:29 pm

CDJapan still has the two CDs. Thanks.

I really like the soundtracks of some of Ozu's films ("Early Summer", "Late Spring", "Equinox Flower", "An Autumn Afternoon", etc.). I was wishing and hoping for some company to put out a CD of the music from these films. I checked the ozuyasujiro.com site again today and found out that a CD was released in 1993 ("A Memorial Album of Yasujiro Ozu"). Does anyone know where I can buy a copy of this CD?

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#53 Post by Steven H » Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:15 pm

There's a good article Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote about Ozu here. Nothing really critical, but I'm all for praise for his silents... they need the exposure. I'm also glad he brings up Passing Fancy, as it's easily one of my favorites (the slapping scene ranks as one of the most touching film bits I've seen).

I wonder if the DVD rights to the Ozu silents are in limbo in the UK... because it doesn't seem like they'll get much exposure in the US anytime soon.

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#54 Post by rlendog » Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:21 pm

I had a couple of questions regarding the commentaries on 2 Ozu films. I suppose the questions could go under the films themselves but since the assessments made in the commentary mirror that in some of the Ozu literature, I figure I'll ask them here. There are minor spoilers.

In Early Summer much is made about how Noriko's unconventional marriage decision breaks the family apart, and that this was somehow selfish of her. But wouldn't the family have broken up just as much if she married the other guy. The father even tells the uncle early in the film that he will move in with him once Noriko is married. And Noriko's choice actually seems to give more hope that the family may be reunited in the future, since her husband may move back after a few years.

In Tokyo Story, my questions revolve around assessments of the 2 sons. The older, doctor son gets criticized, but he doesn't seem all that terrible to me. He cut off the family Sunday outing, but that was because he had to attend to a sick child. That still allowed the parents to spend the day with their daughter-in-law and grandsons, which seems to be much of the point of the visit. And maybe Japanese culture is different from mine, but if my family were in that situation, my parents watching their son the doctor cancel his Sunday plans to go help a sick child would be the absolute highlight of their trip.

As for the younger son, he gets absolutely brutalized in the Criterion commentary for not being at his mother's deathbed. On the other hand, he did apparently care for her when she got sick in his hometown. And as far as I cn tell from the film and the subtitles the only reason he arrived late to his mother's deathbed was that he didn't get the message until it was too late. Was he expected to sit around by the phone all day every day waiting for news that his mother is about to die? The criticism seemed overly harsh, unless there was something in the dialogue missed by the subtitles. Leaving after the funeral for a baseball game is another story of course...

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#55 Post by Pinback » Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:28 pm

rlendog wrote:And maybe Japanese culture is different from mine, but if my family were in that situation, my parents watching their son the doctor cancel his Sunday plans to go help a sick child would be the absolute highlight of their trip.
I know that in this case, the parents felt disappointment that their son was not a more successful, prestigious doctor. You've gotta be pretty far down the chain to get called upon on a Sunday. What he did was something to be proud of; but for the parents the fact that he was asked to do it was not.

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#56 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:01 pm

rlendog wrote:In Early Summer much is made about how Noriko's unconventional marriage decision breaks the family apart, and that this was somehow selfish of her. But wouldn't the family have broken up just as much if she married the other guy. The father even tells the uncle early in the film that he will move in with him once Noriko is married. And Noriko's choice actually seems to give more hope that the family may be reunited in the future, since her husband may move back after a few years.
You are absolutely right. The family is angry not because she is breaking it up -- but because she is making a decision (without consultation) that should have been left to the menfolk -- and because her choice is not as upscale as they would have preferred. Most things written about this film (in English) have been completely wrong on this point.
rlendog wrote:In Tokyo Story, my questions revolve around assessments of the 2 sons. The older, doctor son gets criticized, but he doesn't seem all that terrible to me. He cut off the family Sunday outing, but that was because he had to attend to a sick child. That still allowed the parents to spend the day with their daughter-in-law and grandsons, which seems to be much of the point of the visit.
Again, you are correct. And the commentary is misguided. (I complained about this when the DVD first came out). I agree with Pinback too. The sting was that their son wasn't nearly as "successful" as they hoped and expected.
rlendog wrote:As for the younger son, he gets absolutely brutalized in the Criterion commentary for not being at his mother's deathbed. On the other hand, he did apparently care for her when she got sick in his hometown. And as far as I cn tell from the film and the subtitles the only reason he arrived late to his mother's deathbed was that he didn't get the message until it was too late. ... Leaving after the funeral for a baseball game is another story of course...
Three in a row. As far as I can tell, the younger son was on a business trip of some sort. But maybe he was on leave to play a baseball game? ;~} In any event, no one in the film indicates disapproval of his late arrival, only disappointment (once they hear his story).

Except for the daughter (Sugimura) whose "mean-ness" is a matter for humor (and for which she gets comic comeuppance), the children do not behave especially badly. Somehow, American commentators have persistently mis-read this film. Ozu can show strong (even savage) disapproval of characters (though he almost never does so), but he does nothing of the sort in this film.

I've pointed out before that the parents themselves have not, in fact, behaved in an entirely exemplary manner. They had some fairly serious obligations regarding their dead son's widow, but never got around to dealing with this. They also had at least a little responsibility to make the acquaintance of their grand-children previously, which they never did. They also do a fair amount of back-biting over their children's lack of success and prestige. ;~}.

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#57 Post by Pinback » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:12 pm

Michael, when are Criterion going to wise up and get you to do an Ozu commentary? I'd pay the extra $10 for that... :D

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#58 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:28 pm

...running commentaries.

I would consider being a benshi for "Passing Fancy" (but only if I could decipher my pages and pages of notes) -- or doing video essays.

Not a chance they'd ask, ;~}

I think running commentaries are especially inappropriate for Ozu's work.

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#59 Post by rlendog » Sun Jan 16, 2005 5:39 pm

Thanks for the response Michael. I was wondering what if anything I was missing. And I do agree with your last comments - most commentators/writers seem overanxious to simlify Ozu's work such as Tokyo Story (which of course gets most attention) by overstating the flaws of the children and glossing over any flaws in the parents. but fortunately, Ozu's films (at least those I've seen) are strong enough that they can speak for themselves.

That said, I must say that I've found all the Ozu commentaries I've heard (Tokyo Story, Early Summer, Floating Weeds) to be valuable, adding to my knowledge of the films' techniques and personnel, and my understanding of the milieu in which they are set. So despite occassional flaws, I do look forward to and value them.

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#60 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Feb 02, 2005 5:56 am

MK - the Shochiku DVD Box 4 of OZU SILENTS... Remind me - these don't have English subtitles, I recall. Having no Japanese how would I fare with them? Otherwise what is the quality? I know they are otherwise unavailable. I see the box is up on Yesasia...

TOKYO TWILIGHT - Is there a subtitled DVD release, and where can it be sourced?

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#61 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:53 am

No English subs in the Shochiku Ozu series, alas. I don't really read Japanese (I can only decipher individual words here and there -- but the inter-titles on these early films are often so typographically fancy they are sometimes hard to decipher). I don't think one REALLY needs to decipher most of the titles in these. Just reading the summaries in Bordwell's and Richie's books gets one into the ball park.

No DVD version of "Tokyo Twilight" other than the one included in the Shochiku set. Panorama seems to have run out of steam before getting to this. The only subbed video I know of was the French one (now out of print -- and only French subs, obviously).

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#62 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:36 pm

I've just read the Jan 18 post on www.ozuyasujiro.com reporting that Chroma studios are recording the live accompaniment to a programme of 10 Ozu silents at the NW Film Forum in Seattle, for use on upcoming CC DVD releases... So it seems there will be an Ozu silent set or two from the CC, at some stage in the future... Exciting news.

Titles include -

I WAS BORN BUT...
WOMAN OF TOKYO
DRAGNET GIRL
THAT NIGHT'S WIFE
THE LADY AND THE BEARD
AN INN IN TOKYO
A MOTHER SHOULD BE LOVED
TOKYO CHORUS
I FLUNKED BUT...
PASSING FANCY

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#63 Post by rlendog » Thu Feb 03, 2005 6:48 pm

I would be very excited to see these with musical accompaniment. I actually finally got around to watching my video of I Was Born But... for the first time last night. It was very good, but I think I was a little distracted by the total silence (yes I know it is a silent film). I think it would be much more enjoyable with musical accompaniment, like all the other silent movies I've seen.

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#64 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Feb 03, 2005 9:14 pm

I find silence far preferable to the totally unidiomatic accompaniment Criterion used for its "Story of Floating Weeds". A proper score would use a lot of 1920s American and European music (and even snatches of older stuff that was still popular in the late 20s and early 30s in Japan.

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#65 Post by iangj » Sun Feb 06, 2005 4:07 am

rlendog wrote:I would be very excited to see these with musical accompaniment. I actually finally got around to watching my video of I Was Born But... for the first time last night. It was very good, but I think I was a little distracted by the total silence (yes I know it is a silent film). I think it would be much more enjoyable with musical accompaniment, like all the other silent movies I've seen.
My feelings, too. Although my early years of silent film-watching (on scratchy 16mm film society prints) were always projected truly silent - it seemed to add to the "pure cinema" experience - nowadays I feel the opposite. I prefer an even less than perfect musical accompaniment - silent projection always seems to be missing something (which of course it is!). Anyway, I'm not bugged by the Story of Floating Weeds score. Doesn't pose a problem for me.

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#66 Post by King of Kong » Sun Feb 06, 2005 4:47 am

rlendog wrote:Anyway, I'm not bugged by the Story of Floating Weeds score. Doesn't pose a problem for me.
Funny thing is, I first viewed The Story of Floating Weeds without the new score, and I felt I was missing nothing. The images have a sort of "music" of their own, and I almost forgot I was watching a silent film. Herein lies the key to Ozu's greatness: visually, his shots are composed and sequenced so well, that there is hardly need for any further stylistic embellishment.

His is a phenomenal body of work.

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#67 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Feb 06, 2005 12:42 pm

...seem to cry out for an appropriate score -- Dragnet Girl in particular. The amount of "implied music" is immense -- and I can't help but feel that intelligently selected music for such scenes would be desireable. But NOTHING like the musical pablum used in SoFW. (And definitely not continuous music).

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#68 Post by Steven H » Sun Feb 06, 2005 1:03 pm

The tape of Woman of Tokyo I have has the most ridiculous overly dramatic score. If Criterion releases a few silent films, I'm sure it'll be a number of Sosin scores, but I would hope they might try something different and experiment a little. Orchestral accompaniment may work with something like King of Kings, but for Ozu I'd like something more arbitrary and repetitive (I'm imagining Steve Reich's later stuff maybe, or a simple fugue), or even if a score from one of his later films transposed I think it would work pretty well. In fact the latter would be perfect I think.

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#69 Post by King of Kong » Sun Feb 06, 2005 1:04 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:(And definitely not continuous music).
I remember watching a print of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari in film class which had doddering organ music as its soundtrack. It was a continous track, which meant it wasn't "in sync" with the action during the film's dramatic moments. Then there was one print of Metropolis with an 80s synth-rock score...

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#70 Post by Martha » Sun Feb 06, 2005 2:28 pm

King of Kong wrote:...Then there was one print of Metropolis with an 80s synth-rock score...

Which somehow transformed an impressive but not arresting film into one that will never leave my personal top 10 list. Now that Contempt is out and Le Samourai is at least thought to be coming from Criterion, Moroder's Metropolis is #1 on my Desperately Wanted on DVD list.

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#71 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Feb 06, 2005 2:42 pm

Steven H wrote:The tape of Woman of Tokyo I have has the most ridiculous overly dramatic score..
Yet another Facets silent film score malfunction. ;~} Yep, that one is pretty bad -- this use's chunks of Franck's Symphony in D minor as I recall. (The classical works used might be fine in their own right -- but were horribly overblown for purposes of Ozu's film).

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#72 Post by artfilmfan » Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:17 pm

I watched Woman of Tokyo (from my newly purchased Shochiku boxset #4) the other day. It was a challenge to watch it without any sound and English subtitles (even though I had seen it last year at the AFI Silver with both live music accompaniment and subtitles).

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#73 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:49 pm

It was a challenge to watch it without any sound and English subtitles
One gets used to it. Eventually. ;~}

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#74 Post by zedz » Wed Feb 09, 2005 3:06 pm

I thought I'd put in a few good words for some of my favourite titles that have yet to attract comment:Early Summer

I've yet to meet an Ozu film I didn't love, but this immediately became my favourite (even above Late Spring - at least until I see that film again in a good print). It's easy to forget just how playful he can be as a director, and this film is full of delightful jokes (among the characters as well as between director and audience). It's underpinned, however, by some of the truest observations of family dynamics you'll ever see as well as by an ocean of melacholy that sneaks up on you at the end like a ton of lead.

It's immensely pleasurable just watching the craft at work here: the script manages to individualise a gigantic cast of characters (some of whom don't even appear onscreen), and the pacing is split-second perfect. And just look at the skill and versatility of Ozu's actors. Chishu Ryu is the polar opposite of the warm, generous figures he plays elsewhere, and it's amazing to compare his and Haruko Sugimura's work here with their work in Tokyo Story: two years later they can be just as convincing after swapping generations and (to some degree) personalities.

The visual quality of the feature is excellent, given its age, it's got a brilliant commentary from Donald Richie, a decent, substantial additional documentary, and what might just be the most exquisite menu in the collection. No excuse for not owning this.

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#75 Post by FilmFanSea » Thu Feb 10, 2005 2:14 pm

A few thoughts on the Seattle Ozu Retrospective (Feb 3 - Mar 10; 27 films, 10 of them silent), Week 1:

I Was Born But ... was the opening night feature & played to a full crowd in the larger of the two theaters at Northwest Film Forum. Live musical accompaniment was cello and koto--I found it to be effective, though not especially tied to the onscreen story, and lacking a sense of humor so prominent in the film. This was my first viewing of the film, which is charming & funny (but I felt that the tempo dragged over the last quarter, e.g. the father's reaction to the sons' hunger strike).

Tokyo Story: Fearing a battered print, I watched my Criterion DVD (for the third time) instead. When first released, I had been disappointed in the Desser commentary--esp the concentration on the formal aspects of Ozu's technique: editing, story-telling, mise-en-sc�ne. I appreciated it much more on second listening. I find the film itself as sublime as ever.

There Was a Father. The print was in horrible condition, but this bittersweet film was very moving. (I kept thinking of the Harry Chapin song, "Cat's in the Cradle".) The values are very old-fashioned (boys don't cry; a man's allegiance should be to education, career, and advancement over family and sentiment), but Ozu seems to accept them.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman: Viewed last night in the smaller theater (with only six other people in the audience; though, to be fair, it was competing with the final showing of Tokyo Story on the main screen). My favorite film of the first week (after Tokyo Story). The title is misleading (David Bordwell writes that it's better translated as A Who's Who of the Tenements), since the focus is on a cynical old woman and the abandoned boy she reluctantly cares for. The scene in the photographer's studio was technically startling, and I teared up at the end. Highly recommended.

Tokyo Twilight. I'm very unhappy that I missed this. It was shown only as two matinee screenings on Super Bowl Sunday ...

Week 2 schedule:

Woman of Tokyo (1933) w/ live accompaniment of new score
An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
Late Spring (1949)
What Did the Lady Forget? (1937)
Dragnet Girl (1933) w/ live accompaniment of new score

I hope to see all of these, except perhaps What Did the Lady Forget?, unless anyone feels it is a must-see.

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