Yasujiro Ozu

very occasionally credited as James Maki or Uinzato Mone (1)
b. December 12, 1903, Tokyo, Japan
d. December 12, 1963, Tokyo, Japan

filmography
bibliography
articles in Senses
web resources

The films of Yasujiro Ozu examine the basic struggles that we all face in life: the cycles of birth and death, the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the tension between tradition and modernity. Their titles often emphasise the changing of seasons, a symbolic backdrop for the evolving transitions of human experience. Seen together, Ozu’s oeuvre amounts to one of the most profound visions of family life in the history of cinema.

Ozu’s career falls loosely into two halves, divided by the Second World War. His breezier early works are unafraid to acknowledge the influence of Hollywood melodramas or to flirt with farce. Such films contrast greatly with his later masterpieces, which portray a uniquely contemplative style so rigorously simplistic that it renounces almost all known film grammar.

Ozu’s Background

Ozu was born on December 12, 1903 in Tokyo. He and his two brothers were educated in the countryside, in Matsuzaka, whilst his father sold fertilizer in Tokyo. In 1916 he began middle school at Uji-Yamada and was an unruly pupil who loved mischief, fighting, keeping a photo of actress Pearl White on his desk, and drinking alcohol. (2) Drinking was a habit he gained early in life and one that he was to keep. Ozu developed a love of film during his early days of school truancy, but his fascination began when he first saw a Matsunosuke historical spectacular at the Atagoza cinema in Matsuzaka. (3)

There Was A Father

Despite having few qualifications, Ozu secured a position as an assistant teacher in a small mountain village some distance from Matsuzaka—a post for which a college diploma was not needed. Little has been written or spoken about Ozu’s time teaching in this community except that it is known he drank almost continually. Friends came to visit him and stayed for extended drinking sessions for months on end. Eventually, his father had to wire him money to pay off his drinking debts and Ozu went back to Tokyo, after a decade away, to live with his family.

Ozu’s uncle, aware of his nephew’s love of film, introduced him to Teihiro Tsutsumi, then manager of Shochiku. Not long after, Ozu began working for the great studio—against his father’s wishes—as an assistant cameraman. It may be thought nowadays that Ozu more than landed on his feet when he began work in the movies, however, in 1923 the Japanese movies were not considered ‘respectable’ or ‘proper’ employment and there was consequently a shortage of enthusiastic, bright young men involved in their production. Even Ozu’s father initially refused his son’s wish to work in the movies and had to be persuaded otherwise by the uncle.

Ozu’s work as assistant cameraman involved pure physical labour, lifting and moving equipment at Shochiku’s Tokyo studios in Kamata. (4) After becoming assistant director to Tadamoto Okubo, it took less than a year for Ozu to put his first script forward for filming. It was in fact his second script The Sword Of Penitence that became his first film as director (and only period piece) in 1927. Ozu was called up into the army reserves before shooting was completed, and upon seeing the film afterwards stated that he would rather not call it his own. No negative, prints or script exist of The Sword Of Penitence—and, sadly, only 36 out of 54 Ozu films still exist.

Ozu’s Films

Ozu’s career began with an early fondness for American films and he later told Donald Richie that he particularly liked those of Ernst Lubitsch. However, in other conversations, Ozu seems unwilling to admit to influence. He did see large numbers of Japanese films after joining Shochiku in order to study his seniors’ techniques and famously said, “I formulated my own directing style in my own head, proceeding without any unnecessary imitation of others…for me there was no such thing as a teacher. I have relied entirely on my own strength.” (5) Audie Bock points out that it’s difficult to look for parallels between Ozu’s life and his films: “College, office, and marital life—none of which Ozu experienced—are the subjects of many of his films; army life never appears, and provincial life, such as he lived with his mother in Matsuzaka, only rarely.” She concludes that Ozu must have approached film as an art of fiction from which a realism was to be distilled: “His inspiration came from outside his own life, from his mind and the lives of others observed to perfection with that mind.” (6)

Days Of Youth (Wakaki Hi, 1929) is Ozu’s earliest extant picture, though not especially typical (and preceded by seven others, now lost) as it is set on ski slopes. A variant on the then popular comedies depicting students at work and play, in this film two students endeavour to pass their exams and impress the girl to whom they have both taken a fancy. Stylistically it is rife with close-ups, fade-outs and tracking shots, all of which Ozu was later to leave behind.

I Was Born, But...

Three years later came what is generally recognized as Ozu’s first major film, I Was Born, But… (Umarete wa Mita Keredo…, 1932). This moving comedy/drama was a great success in Japan both critically and financially. One of cinema’s finest works about children, the film begins as a riotous Keatonesque comedy but quickly darkens as it portrays a classic confrontation between the innocence of childhood and the hypocrisy of adults. A tracking shot of a line of exercising schoolchildren cuts to a tracking shot of a line of office workers yawning at their desks. Using a technique he would later discard, Ozu here effectively associates school and office work as regimentary and the transition between the two as inevitable. Ozu liked I Was Born, But… so much that he remade it as Good Morning (Ohayo) in 1959.

In the 1930s, Ozu’s protagonists were all lower/middle class ordinary folk. During this time in Japan the shomin-geki (“drama about people like you and me”) was highly regarded for its honesty and relevance. Poverty was the bane of these characters’ lives, along with class differences, but as early as the 1930s Ozu’s message of acceptance was already clear. The restrained, lyrical work Story Of Floating Weeds (Ukigusa Monogatari, 1934) is the story of the leader of a small group of traveling players who returns to a small town and meets his son, the product of an earlier affair. Ozu transforms the slightly melodramatic tale into an atmospheric and intense study. Donald Richie has called this film “the first of those eight-reel universes in which everything takes on a consistency greater than life: in short, a work of art.” Its depiction of life on the boards—the pantomime ‘dog’ who misses his cue, bowls to catch raindrops through the leaking roofs, and the quick cigarettes between exits and entrances—is classic Ozu. He would later remake the film in colour as Floating Weeds.

A year later, Ozu pursued his examination of socio-economic conditions by showing Depression-hit Japan in An Inn In Tokyo (Tokyo no Yado, 1935), one of Ozu’s most moving pictures. A father and his young sons trudge the backstreets of Tokyo vainly seeking work and, with few possessions, must choose between food and shelter. In many ways it anticipates the neorealism of De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948), but with an even more powerful ending. Although ‘talkies’ had reached Japan by 1935, Ozu, like Chaplin, held out for silence, but he couldn’t stop the studio adding music. His subsequent films were all ‘talkies’.

Floating Weeds

During the war, Ozu only made two films, Brothers And Sisters Of The Toda Family (Toda-ke no Kyodai, 1941) and There Was A Father (Chichi Ariki, 1942), the latter of which won the second prize in the Kinema Jumpo, made money at the box office, and became one of Japan’s most treasured cinema classics. After the war Ozu, no war criminal, was placed in a British POW camp near Singapore for six months where he cultivated his love of poetry whilst doing the dishes and cleaning toilets. In February 1946 he returned to war damaged Tokyo and set about trying to make more films. Ozu’s later, more refined style had been gradually percolating throughout the 1940s and Late Spring (Banshun, 1949) became the first and finest telling of a story Ozu was to remake, with variations, many times. A young woman, (Setsuko Hara) who lives happily with her widowed father (Chishu Ryu), will not consider marriage, preferring her state of comfortable dependence to the responsibilities of childbearing and household duties. The father, afraid that she will live a lonely and barren life, leads her to believe that he intends to remarry in order to free her. A dispassionate observation of the characters’ environment and emotions, Late Spring was one of Ozu’s own favourites (along with There Was A Father and Tokyo Story).

As the 1940s came to an end Ozu began to fuse his early American influences with an overriding desire to reduce his techniques. In his later films, he reduced all camera movement (pans, dollying, and crabbing) to nil; he disregarded classical Hollywood cinema conventions such as the 180 degree rule (where the camera always remains on one side of an imaginary axis drawn between two talking actors) and replaced it with what critics have termed the “360 degree rule” (because Ozu crosses this axis); and he replaced traditional shot/reverse shot techniques with a system whereby each character looks straight into the camera when speaking to someone else. This had the unusual effect of placing the viewer directly in the centre of conversations—as if being talked to—instead of the Hollywood convention of alternately peering over characters’ shoulders during such sequences. Furthermore, Ozu decided to reduce his choice of transition effect; gone were fades, wipes, dissolves, all replaced with the straight cut. Reducing his techniques in this way focused all attention on his characters—and their humanity shines through.

Ozu went further than limiting his vocabulary of film punctuation; he also sought to de-emphasize his films’ plots—the direct opposite of what Hollywood cinema of the time was doing. He worked out the entire script, dialogue and camera positions himself before he started shooting. Ozu regular Chishu Ryu recounts:

Mr. Ozu looked happiest when he was engaged in writing a scenario with Mr. Kogo Noda, at the latter’s cottage on the tableland of Nagano Prefecture. By the time he finished writing a script, after about four months’ effort, he had already made up every image in every shot, so that he never changed the scenario after we went on the set. The words were so polished up that he would not allow us even a single mistake. (7)

In addition to being motionless in his later work, Ozu’s camera—from early in his career—was often placed at a very low level as if the viewer were sat crosslegged. It has been noted that this is at the same level one sits on tatami for a tea ceremony in a Japanese home, or while meditating, sitting in silence, observing, reaching meaning through extreme simplificaton. (8) It is also the height Ozu had to position his camera when making a film about children, and it is said he liked it so much that he stuck with it. Ozu clearly had many reasons for adopting such a low position for his camera and it became one of the few facets of his pared down technique.

1951′s Early Summer (Bakushu) is an extraordinary film about the lives of ordinary people, centering on a young woman who rebels against the wishes of her family by choosing her own husband. Through tangential stories and brief moments Ozu meticulously observes the lives of some 19 characters, expanding the boundaries of the film’s simple plot with an elliptical narrative. The film is driven forward not by its plot but rather by Ozu’s use of space, time and the constantly changing rhythm of the action.

Tokyo Story

The crown jewel in Ozu’s career is widely regarded as being Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari, 1953). It consistently makes all-time top ten film lists around the world along with Citizen Kane, Rules Of the Game and Vertigo. It is Ozu’s sad, simple story of generational conflict where an elderly couple’s visit to their busy, self-absorbed offspring in Tokyo is met with indifference. This ingratitude only serves to reveal permanent emotional differences, which the parents gracefully accept and then return home. It is in Tokyo Story where Ozu’s form reaches its zenith. The apparent lack of plot (not of story, but of story events) is replaced by a series of moments which have a cumulative effect, and of ellipses. David Desser highlighted the different kinds of ellipses in Tokyo Story, (9) identifying them as follows. “Minor ellipsis” denotes the dropping of a minor plot event—for example, a character discusses sending their parents on holiday and the next shot shows the parents on holiday (Ozu having elided scenes where the parents are persuaded to go on holiday). “Surprise ellipsis” can be demonstrated by Ozu preparing the viewer for a scene and then simply eliding the whole event for effect—a risky strategy, as the greater the ellipsis the more alert the viewer must be. Finally, “dramatic ellipsis” is concerned with the offscreen occurrence of something dramatic, which the viewer only hears about later—for example, the sudden illness of the mother that we only hear about secondhand. Ozu maintains the mood and tone without needing to portray the events that he is eliding (unlike classical Hollywood cinema which would, generally, base itself around the things that Ozu leaves out). Indeed, the ellipses convolve and dictate the pace of the film. Ozu’s examination of the slow fracturing of the Japanese family in Tokyo Story is filled with quiet resignation, a neverending acceptance and the realization that tradition is subject to change.

Early Spring (Soshun, 1956) is Ozu’s longest film. In it, a young salaried office worker is bored with both his job and his wife. He has a small affair with the office flirt, he and his wife quarrel, and eventually he accepts a transfer to the country. Ozu said of the film:

Although I hadn’t made a white-collar story for a long time, I wanted to show the life of a man with such a job—his happiness over graduation and finally becoming a member of society, his hopes for the future gradually dissolving, his realizing that, even though he has worked for years, he has accomplished nothing. ((10))

Thirty years into his filmmaking career Ozu was making films which, like Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), questioned the sense of spending your whole working life behind a desk—something that many of his audience must have been doing.

Equinox Flower

In 1958, Ozu made what was for him the giant leap into the world of colour filmmaking. Equinox Flower (Higan-Bana) was another close examination of family life, presented from the viewpoint of the younger generation. Focusing on a modern young woman (Fujiko Yamamoto) who wishes to choose her husband over her father’s objections, Ozu opens an age-old discussion on respect for the beliefs and values of elders and the tensions born of youthful rebellion. As the father is slowly won over, the entire family is subjected to Ozu’s teasing irony and loving detail. The colour enhances the tone and mood of the film and showcases Yamamoto’s famous beauty. The film begins and ends cheekily on the railway—first with a warning sign “strong winds expected”, finally with a train chugging away into a blissful autumn afternoon, everyone reconciled.

All subsequent films were now to be colour, and none look more glorious than Floating Weeds (Ukigusa, 1959), a remake of his earlier similarly titled film, this time photographed by Kazuo Miyagawa—one of Japan’s greatest cinematographers (Rashomon [Akira Kurosawa, 1951], Yojimbo [Akira Kurosawa, 1961], Ugetsu Monogatari [Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953]). Ozu said, “About this time, CinemaScope was getting popular. I wanted to have nothing to do with it, and consequently I shot more close-ups and used shorter shots.” (Reacting against the long shots and long scenes typical to Scope movies of the time). Donald Richie called Floating Weeds, “the most physically beautiful of all of Ozu’s pictures.”

Late Autumn (Akibiyori, 1960) is one of my personal favourites. A young woman living with her widowed mother (Setsuko Hara, now moving up the character ladder from eternal daughter to eternal mother) finds the thought of her mother’s remarriage offensive. Neither wants to leave the other to marry or remarry, and one of them eventually does. Ozu works his magic for two hours and achieves a pitch at the end whereby the simplest little expression seems momentous and heartbreaking. Late Autumn contains some of the funniest moments to be seen in all of Ozu. Mariko Okada plays the feisty young friend of the daughter in an unusually forthright way for Ozu—a reflection of the modern Japanese woman in the 1960s. She cuts through tradition, chastising the comic chorus of old rogues who are trying to sort out both women’s future, and ensures a happy ending—proof that not all Ozu characters are meek and passive.

Sadly, Ozu’s last film An Autumn Afternoon (1962) was undoubtedly influenced by the death, during filming, of his mother, with whom he had lived all his life. It is a serene meditation on ageing and loneliness as well as a final display of Ozu’s wicked humour. Having arranged the marriage of his only daughter, a widower becomes painfully aware of his advanced age and his isolation. Solace is sought in alcohol and drunken comradeship which give rise to some more of the funniest scenes in Ozu’s later films. Ozu died a year after its making, so it exists as his last thoughts on a recurring subject that recalls Late Autumn and Early Spring. (Literally, the Japanese title Samma no Aji means “the taste of mackerel”.)

Ozu’s Legacy

Early Summer

Ozu’s films represent a lifelong study of the Japanese family and the changes that a family unit experiences. He ennobles the humdrum world of the middle-class family and has been regarded as “the most Japanese of all filmmakers”, not just by Western critics, but also by his countrymen. However, this accolade led to Ozu being regarded as “traditional”, and a “social conservative” by young filmmakers of the Japanese New Wave (such as Shohei Imamura, who had worked as an apprentice with Ozu). Like the children in Ozu’s movies, the young filmmakers rebelled against his “old fashioned” acceptance of life as they saw it. Much has been written about the “most Japanese of filmmakers” tag; Hasumi Shigehiko believed it showed a lack of understanding of his work. Hasumi wrote that Ozu chose a persistent approach towards film and its limits, liberating himself from the ambiguity of outlines, dampness and shadows. He describes Ozu’s filmmaking as preferring dry sunlight conditions (as opposed to Mizoguchi’s fog, or Kurosawa’s rain); its sole purpose being to “approach the dazzle of midsummer sunlight”, something that Hasumi points out is in many ways the opposite of those said to have a “very Japanese” aesthetic sense. (11)

Remarkably, Ozu’s films were rarely seen in the West until the early 1970s (there had been a small tour of his films in the US in the 1960s). His barebone narratives and idiosyncratic style never appealed to distributors at the time who apparently felt they were just “too Japanese” for Western audiences. These distributors never accused Bresson of being “too French” however, and it seems that they alone were responsible for Ozu’s delayed exposure to the West. Maybe they thought Ozu’s themes and titles were too similar and thus confusing? After all, most of Ozu’s later work (1950s/60s) centered on the same motif: the marrying off of a loyal daughter so that she could begin to live her own life. When Ozu’s films did start getting shown in the West, art cinema aficionados of Bresson, Bergman and Antonioni’s formal styles were ecstatic to find a Japanese master whose films spoke as eloquently about Japanese life as their favourite European films did of their respective homelands.

There is an overwhelming sensibility running through all Ozu films that is difficult to put into words but Donald Richie does well to describe it as “a point of view of sympathetic sadness”. (12) To expand upon this, the Japanese concept of mono no aware can be related to Ozu’s sensibilities and worldview. Mono no aware is the perspective of a tired, relaxed, even disappointed observer, perhaps someone sagely approaching death. It is not limited to reflection on death but touches all aspects of life and nature: a pure, emotional response to the beauty of nature, the impermanence of life, and the sorrow of death. The scholar Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801) invented the unique concept of mono no aware to define the essence of Japanese culture (the phrase derives from aware, which means “a sensitivity to things”). He believed that the character of Japanese culture encompassed the capacity to experience the objective world in a direct and unmediated fashion, to understand sympathetically the objects and the natural world around one without resorting to language or other mediators. (13) This concept became the central aesthetic concept in Japan, even into the modern period, allowing the Japanese to understand the world directly by identifying themselves with that world. Film director Kenji Mizoguchi said, “I portray what should not be possible in the world as if it should be possible, but Ozu portrays what should be possible as if it were possible, and that is much more difficult.” (14)

Whilst in China during his war service, Ozu asked a Chinese monk to paint the character “mu” for him (an abstract concept loosely meaning “void” or “nothingness”). Ozu died painfully on his sixtieth birthday in 1963 of cancer and his tombstone in the temple of Engaku in Kita-Kamakura bears the inscription “mu” from the monk’s painting that he had kept all his life.

At the time of writing, it is Ozu’s centenary year—a wonderful opportunity for the world to look back on his films and for the young to see them for the first time. Celebrations, retrospectives and brand new DVD transfers are appearing around the world and Ozu’s legacy is becoming even more cherished with passing time.

Ozu filming The Flavour Of Green Tea Over Rice

Filmography

The following are films still in existence (either partially or wholly):

Days Of Youth (Wakaki Hi) (1929) 103 mins

I Graduated, But… (Daigaku wa Deta Kerodo…) (1929) 11 mins

A Straightforward Boy (Tokkan Kozo) (1929) 14 mins

Walk Cheerfully (Hogaraka ni Ayume) (1930) 100 mins

I Flunked, But… (Rakudai wa shita kerodo…) (1930) 94 mins

That Night’s Wife (Sono yo no tsuma) (1930) 65 mins.

The Lady and the Beard (Shukujo to Hige) (1931) 97 mins

Tokyo Chorus (Tokyo no Gassho) (1931) 90 mins.

I Was Born, But… (Umarete wa Mita Keredo…) (1932) 91 mins

Where Now Are The Dreams Of Youth? (Seishun no Yume Ima Izuko) (1932) 90 mins

Woman Of Tokyo (Tokyo no Onna) (1933) 47 mins

Dragnet Girl (Hijosen no Onna) (1933) 100 mins

Passing Fancy (Dekigokoro) (1933) 100 mins

A Mother Should Be Loved (Haha o kowazuya) (1934) 72 mins; incomplete

Story Of Floating Weeds (Ukigusa Monogatari) (1934) 86 mins

An Inn In Tokyo (Tokyo no Yado) (1935) 80 mins

Kagamijishi (1935) 25 mins; documentary

The Only Son (Hitori Musuko) (1936) 103 mins

Good Morning

What Did The Lady Forget? (Shukujo wa Nani o Wasuretaka) (1937) 73 mins

Brothers And Sisters Of The Toda Family (Toda-ke no Kyodai) (1941) 105 mins

There Was A Father (Chichi Ariki) (1942) 87 mins

Record Of A Tenement Gentleman (Nagaya Shinshi Roku) (1947) 72 mins

A Hen In The Wind (Kaze no Naka no Mendori) (1948) 90 mins

Late Spring (Banshun) (1949) 108 mins

The Munekata Sisters (Munekata Shimai) (1950) 112 mins

Early Summer (Bakushu) (1951) 124 mins

The Flavour Of Green Tea Over Rice (Ochazuke no Aji) (1952) 115 mins

Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari) (1953) 136 mins

Early Spring (Soshun) (1956) 144 mins

Tokyo Twilight (Tokyo Boshoku) (1957) 141 mins

Equinox Flower (Higan-Bana) (1958) 118 mins

Good Morning (Ohayo) (1959) 94 mins

Floating Weeds (Ukigusa) (1959) 119 mins

Late Autumn (Akibiyori) (1960) 128 mins

End Of Summer (Kohayagawa-ke no Aki) (1961) 103 mins

An Autumn Afternoon (Samma no Aji) (1962) 118 mins

Bibliography

David Bordwell, Ozu and the Poetics Of Cinema, BFI Publishing, Princeton University Press, 1988, reprint 1994

Audie Bock, Japanese Film Directors, Kodansha International, 1985 (first published in 1978)

David Desser (ed.), Ozu’s Tokyo Story, Cambridge Film Handbooks, 1997

Donald Richie, Ozu, Berkeley, University Of California Press, 1974

Paul Schrader, Transcendental Style In Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, Berkeley, University of California, 1972, reprint Da Capo Press, 1988

Articles in Senses of Cinema

Is Ozu Slow? by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Equinox Flower by Michael Koller

Kitano’s Hana-bi and the Spatial Traditions of Yasujiro Ozu by Mark Freeman

Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family by Adam Bingham

Dragnet Girl (Hijosen no onna) by Freda Freiberg

Time and Tide: Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Autumn by Adrian Danks

The Only Son (Hitori Musuko) by James Leahy

Passing Fancy (Dekigokoro) by Michael Kerpan

Record of a Tenement Gentleman by Michael Price

Web Resources

Film Directors – Articles on the Internet
Several online articles can be found here

From Behind the Camera
Very informative text by Ken Sakamura about the recent Yasujiro Ozu exhibition in Tokyo, and Ozu’s style in general.

Ozu’s Good Morning on DVD
Gary Morris on the Criterion release of this late Ozu work.

Strictly Film School
Another wonderful page from Acquarello who discusses ten of Ozu’s best films.

Yasujiro Ozu
The most complete Ozu resource on the internet. Features news, pictures, biography, detailed filmography (with synopses), details on Ozu’s style and many links.

Yasujiro Ozu:Tokyo Story
A brief appreciation by Derek Malcolm of this classic film.

Click here to search for Yasujiro Ozu DVDs, videos and books at

Endnotes

  1. “Uinzato Mone”, the name of the author of the script for An Inn In Tokyo, is the pen name of Ozu, Tadao Ikeda, and Masao Arata. It is a distortion of the English “without money”. The protagonist of this film is penniless, but also Ozu’s financial situation was not very good at that time (from Ozu Retrospective: 90th Anniversary of His Birth, Tokyo, Shochiku, 1993).
  2. Kogo Nada, “Ozu to iu Otoko” (“A Man Called Ozu”, Kinema Jumpo Tokushu, 1964. Says Kogo Nada: “it was in front of a dilapidated old theatre called the Atagoza in Matsuzka that Ozu said, ‘If it had not been for this theatre, I might not have become a film director…’” It was around this time that Nada recalls Ozu’s love of the films of Lillian Gish, Pearl White and William S. Hart as well as (later) Rex Ingram and King Vidor. Ozu chose to watch The Prisoner Of Zenda at the cinema instead of taking the entrance examination to the prestigious Kobe Higher Commercial School, where his elder brother Shinichi attended. However, perhaps regretting his missed college opportunity, he later paid for the college education of his younger brother Shinzo.
  3. Ozu apparently revelled in his early days at Kamata—feeling content and free. He once said that he was happy because he was strong, and lugging the camera took all his strength. He also knew that in his new company he had the opportunity to get ahead, but “the real truth is that I didn’t want to. As an assistant I could drink all I wanted and spend my time talking. As a director I’d have to stay up all night working on continuity. Still, my friends told me to go ahead and give it a try.”
  4. Hiroshi Sakai, a cameraman for whom Ozu worked, remembers Ozu during summer shoots wearing only shorts and carrying the heavy Berhauer camera on his shoulder. He also remembered Ozu sitting at the feet of director Kiyoko Ushihara, asking questions about movie-making, in particular “What should cinema of the coming generation be like?” (Sakai cannot remember Ushihara’s reply).
  5. Quoted in Audie Bock, Japanese Film Directors, Kodansha International, 1985, p. 74; original quote found in Yasujiro Ozu, Boku wa eiga no mame-kantoku (I Am a Miniature Film Director), Tokyo, Maki Shoten, 1953
  6. Bock, p. 73
  7. From “Yasujiro Ozu by Chishu Ryu”, Sight & Sound, Spring 1964. Ryu continues, “Ozu was always ready to go location-hunting and walked the narrow lanes and back streets all day long in search of the places which would best fit his images. He was such a good walker and had such enthusiasm that the cameramen, who accompanied him, used to be tired out first.”
  8. Donald Richie, Ozu, Berkeley, University Of California Press, 1974, p. 256. Ozu himself thought the height of his camera rose slightly in his later films, something he put down to the Westernization of Japanese homes: more chairs and higher tables, less tatami mats.
  9. David Desser (ed.), Ozu’s Tokyo Story, New York, Cambridge Film Handbooks, 1997
  10. Richie, p. 240
  11. Hasumi Shigehiko, Kantoku Ozu Yasujiro (Director Ozu Yasujiro, Tokyo: Chikumashobo, 1983), from which the chapter “Sunny Skies” has been translated into English by Kathy Shigeta and reprinted in David Desser (ed.), Ozu’s Tokyo Story
  12. “Sympathetic sadness”, a phrase first used by Tamako Niwa, and quoted in Richie, p. 52
  13. Richard Hooker, Japan Glossary, Washington State University, http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GLOSSARY/JAPGLOSS.HTM
  14. Masahiro Shinoda, “Mizoguchi Kenji kara toku hanarete”, Kikan Film, No.3, 1969

About The Author

Nick Wrigley lives in England, is a musician and co-founder of www.mastersofcinema.org.