Ozu Films

Written on October 25, 2010 – 10:47 pm | by jwolpoe

Early Summer was not the first Ozu film I’ve ever seen – last year I watched Tokyo Story, a later work by Ozu. I actually found the panning shots in the film (and I can only recall two off the top of my head) absolutely shocking, because they felt so weird after watching a later work in which he clearly avoided any camera movements.

And a few of his actors were the same as well. I spent the first few minutes of the movie fixated upon Noriko, convinced I’d seen her before. A quick internet search confirms that she starred in Tokyo Story as well as Late Spring, another movie in which she plays a character names “Noriko” who is unmarried. It’s interesting that Ozu chose to focus on that theme in three separate films, under three different circumstances. It’s true that women in post-war Japan were being given more freedoms, as clearly demonstrated by the Norkio in Early Summer, but it’s also true that the societal pressures to get married and have a family still existed.

Overall, I loved the film, reveling in it’s simple everyday story. The comparisons to Umberto D. were impossible to avoid – while the tone and flavor the film are completely different, the same spotlight was shown on everyday life. (A far less desperate everyday life, true, but a average one nonethelss.)

I commented in class that I enjoyed the layers that Ozu brought to the characters without ever explicitly stating them. My example was the relationship between Noriko and her sister-in-law. At no point in the film do they chat about their friendship, and for the vast majority of the film we only see them together within the confines of the home, while Noriko has an outside life with her job and her boss. Yet it becomes increasingly clear over the course of the film that Noriko and her sister-in-law are in fact good friends, and it seems quite possible that the sister-in-law will be left quite alone once Noriko leaves. Again, none of this is ever explicitly stated, everything is shown to the audience in a low-key, very realistic sort of way. It was refreshingly enjoyable, after Hollywood movies tend to bash you over the head with extra exposition and voice-overs to clearly establish who is related to who and how. In this film the relationships emerged gradually and naturally, and the film felt like a peek into a real life instead of a crafted story designed to fit a certain time frame.

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  1. 2 Responses to “Ozu Films”

  2.   By Amy Herzog on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    I think you are exactly right about the subtle ways in which Ozu observes the ripple effects change has upon all the members of these families. I’ve often felt that by exploring similar issues and characters in multiple films, he seems to be working to show even more angles and nuances at work in these relationships, which are more complicated than we might at first imagine.

  3.   By anroy on Nov 21, 2010 | Reply

    I agree with you the relationship between Noriko and the sister in law.There was unsaid understanding between them. I didnt notice that the sister in law stay quite or lonely after Noriko leaves for work until I read this. You are right life and relationships are subtle in the film, not loud and over the top.

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