knives wrote:Guess now we know why Ozu is so much more popular than Naruse, or at least that's what Andy Griffith would say.
That pop-culture reference has gone straight over my head!
almost nonchalant reference by David Ehrenstein to the sexual orientation of Setsuko Hara and its status as an open secret within a certain generation of Japanese society is both innately interesting and enriching as regards possible sub-textual interpretations of at least Late Spring And Early Summer!The symbiotic relationship that existed between Ozu and Miss Hara must (at least partly) have been formed by their respective sexual identities and the conflicting demands of society,or is that too simplistic.
Mike Grost wrote:Ozu's perennial subject is a family pressuring a grown son or daughter to marry, and the sadness and devastation this leaves in its wake. I have seen many different critical interpretations of this: that the kids are too "lazy" to take on adult responsibilities, that the parents are doing this out of a sense of "duty" or "sacrifice", that this is a universal experience of children leaving the parent's nest. I think all of these points of view are wrong, and are not supported by the films in question. Instead, I think these scenes should be given a different interpretation. First of all, Ozu seems to be a gay man, although nobody wants to say so. He was a man who was unmarried, and who never had an active relationship with a woman. He was expelled from boarding school as a teenager for writing a love letter to another male student. What Ozu seems to be criticizing in his films is the huge pressure society puts on people to marry, whatever their sexual orientation. Such pressure can be bad for some straight people who are temperamentally unsuited for marriage. But it is absolutely devastating to gay people who are pressured into marriage against their will. What we are seeing is Ozu's films is what the poet Adrienne Rich called "compulsory heterosexuality", the huge machine of social pressure put on everybody to lead a heterosexual life, whether they are suited to it or not.
The early part of many Ozu films shows how happy everyone is living as part of a family, with a parent-grown child relationship and friends. These scenes show a blissful, ecstatic happiness. They are an outpouring of pure joy, and a picture of paradise on earth. Then, part way through the picture, pressure starts on the grown child to marry. It comes from everybody: all the relatives and friends of the parent. It is relentless, and the machinery grinds on. The child is forced into marriage, something that at the end of the movie leads to the destruction of the happy family, as the child goes off to the new home, and painful sorrow and despair for both the parent and the child.
No one in the film speaks out against marriage as an institution. The child resists, but has no ideological weapons. All voices are raised in favor of marriage as a universal obligation. But the film never makes any transcendental moral argument in favor of marriage. It shows that it is socially demanded, but it never shows it benefiting anyone, or hurting anyone by its absence. No moral case for marriage is ever made in the film. It is merely unthinkingly accepted by everyone as the natural order of things, a universal obligation of nature. Ozu's films are not ambiguous on this point: they do not make the slightest case for marriage as a moral obligation. So critics are reading into Ozu's films when they use words like "duty" to describe the characters' actions. Critics who summarize an Ozu film as "the father steps aside so that the daughter can find happiness in marriage" are also seriously misreading the movie. While the father's friends might make such an argument to him in the film, the film itself does nothing to support it. The heroine clearly is not going off to a life of happiness, but to a total hell.
Possible homoerotic undertones in an early Ozu student comedy!
Dennis Grunes wrote:One of his earliest films, and the earliest one currently available, Yasujiro Ozu’s Gakusei romance: Wakaki hi is a silent slapstick comedy. Its joint protagonists are Watanabe and Yamamoto, college students who come to share a Tokyo apartment and who pursue the same flirtatious girl, Chieko. The film opens with a series of leftward pans of the urban environment, including a school football field in use; it ends with the same shots, but now rightward and in reverse order—a book-closing gesture that in effect leaves both boys with one another as neither “gets the girl.”
Indeed, their romantic rivalry apparently aims at drawing themselves closer together rather than apart, which would likely be the upshot if one had actually coupled with Chieko. On the wall is a poster of the Hollywood film Seventh Heaven (Frank Borzage, 1927) picturing the film’s romantic stars, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. One wonders if Ozu knew that both these stars were gay.
Ozu was in his mid-twenties when he made this film, nearly as young as his protagonists, and it is uncharacteristically full of sexual imagery. The one token heterosexual gesture consists of one of the boys dusting off snow from the seat of Chieko’s pants seat when all three are at a Taguchi ski resort following final exams; all other gestures and images are homoerotic. These include shots of the boys’ bare feet, considerable touching between them, one gorgeous shot from behind the boys as side-by-side they face a vast snowy landscape, one boy lying in the snow, stuck at the other’s mischievous hand, his skis perpendicular to the ground, which is to say, erect. One boy hilariously pursues a ski that the other has sent sailing down a slight decline. Poles of all kinds, smokestacks, a smoking chimney, both boys puffing on pipes: combinately, all this becomes a visual translation of Herman Melville’s phallic punning in the story “I and My Chimney.”
There is a bit of business that Ozu would repeat in the following year’s That Night’s Wife: a closeup of hands tying a shoelace with a double knot. It is a gesture in pursuit of control, an attempt to put a tight lid on things, an expression of anxiety.
In my twenty previous entries about Ozu films I have never addressed Ozu’s rumored sexual preference because it had never seemed relevant to the meaning or the character of the films. Here it does seem relevant.
Oh, by the way, on the train back to Tokyo the boys run into one of their professors, who reveals their final exam grades. Both flunked—which in effect means they hadn’t earned their post-exams vacation and weren’t entitled to pursue Chieko. A very funny comedy, this—and a disquieting one.