Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

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Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby trevor826 » Fri Aug 12, 2005 6:11 am

Tokyo Monogatari (1953) Tokyo Story

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Starring Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara

Rated by many as Ozus best, again the simple plotline belies the depth of this film but it is without a doubt a classic in every sense of the word.

None of his other films touch on the change and division of old and new Japan quite so profoundly as this one. Shukishi together with his wife Tomi travel from their hometown to visit their middle class offspring in Tokyo, the problem is none of them have (or want to make) the time for them, they are too busy with their careers and lives to spare the time to show them the sights. Luckily their widowed daughter in law, Noriko makes time for them until their children pack them off to the hot springs.

After returning to Tokyo they decide to head back to their hometown only for tragedy to strike, even then the eldest son and his wife cannot wait to get back to their busy lives in Tokyo.

Ozu was reflecting on the changing attitudes and way of life in Japanese society, the difference between the old couple and their children reflected changes happening everywhere. Modernisation, the hustle and bustle of City life and materialism all had an adverse affect on the family unit and is a problem that has affected most societies, certainly in the 20th Century. These changes are reluctantly accepted with an air of resignation in the film, things change and whether for better or worse there is little (if anything) that can be done about it.

Overall, quite a melancholic film but one that doesn't hold even a touch of bitterness or anger, simply a highly recommended classic.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated PG

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby A » Sun Aug 21, 2005 2:16 pm

Ok, great thread that has been started. Thanks for the good reviews. Ill probably have to contribute something in the future, but for now, i have no reviews on my PC on those three. And Ozu and Mizoguchi aren`t really available here in Germany, so it might take some time (read years) till I`ll see more of them. But you guys just continue, and Ill enjoy the reading.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby Johndav » Mon Dec 26, 2005 2:24 pm

Well, a thread with the 3 best Ozu (that i've seen anyway) and Mizo's peak!

Sansho: the use of sounds and music has a marvellous haunting quality, never for cheap effect that's for sure. Actually, Mizo had many dozens of films behind him by 54. For me, his most moving film, so wpqx view disappointing. Can a film with such a feeling for beauty, humane values, spiritual depth really be as pessimistic as you suggest? Like Tarkovsky, i think there's more an acceptance that there's more to life than simple happiness (so many corny Hollywood/crowd-pleasing endings!). And a reunion with mother- blind or not- is quite a compensation, especially given the importance of separation + longing throughout. I'm sure Mizo himself would have loved such a reunion with his own mother who died when in his teens. Note Tamaki does miss Anju- not just joy at finding Zushio. Perhaps a personal element again with Mizo, as he hd such high regard for his sister. Is Tamaki's blindness really manipulative, laying on suffering too thick, or a means to deeper connections, emotional depth beyond the merely visual (recognition)? Sparing use of close ups in Mizo's later years, but he was now more comfortable for occasional power, than he'd once been. His films are known for their graceful camerawork/ spatial exploration but again the moving camera had its purpose, he knew when stillness was crucial (Anju's death). Back to the level of pessimism; from my own perspective, a maternal reunion, under almost any cirumstances, would come pretty well top of the wishlist- so, as with all films, reactions are bound to be subjective! Oh, and not forgetting the overthrow of tyranny (revolution as well as Buddhist acceptance in the film!) and the redemption of Zushio's character. Pessimism? Nah!

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby trevor826 » Mon Dec 26, 2005 6:55 pm

Thanks Johndav, I'm expecting some input from you on this thread, indeed it would be very welcome.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby A » Mon Dec 26, 2005 7:08 pm

Watched "Early Summer" from Ozu recently, and I liked it slightly better than my other Ozu film "Tokyo Story". I think the camera movements in this one added to the film, and for me it was a very warm, more "hearty" film. Nice emancipation story, not quite a masterpiece for me, but very near.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby Johndav » Mon Dec 26, 2005 8:28 pm

David Bordwell's book Figures Traced in Light is excellent for study of Mizo's mise-en-scene, and makes point that Hou Hsiao Hsien has a lot more in common with Mizo than generally acknowledged. His debt to Ozu (more static camera, quiet dramas) widely recognised of course.

Then Michael Kerpan makes useful observation about Ozu's frequent changes of camera position, if not movement between cuts, in Senses of Cinema article. May be obvious but needed saying. I like the little similarities and differences, variation on a theme, in Ozu films- the sea ending in Late Spring (i've long thought ideal for an ending), beginning in Early Summer, train rides etc, different roles (e.g Ryu as older brother or father..), and i love that bike ride in Late Spring. One of the loveliest most joyful scenes in cinema, sets us up for a glowing romance, but things don't work out predictably...

And finally there's been a book in English on Mizo; Mizoguchi and Japan by Mark le Fanu, well worth getting, though i've not had time to digest it properly i must admit. His earlier book on Tarkovsky excellent too.

Close-ups: Maborosi, another film- masterpiece actually- superficially very indebted to Ozu (focus on objects, off-screen space, stillness..) avoids close ups to the extent we hardly get to see female protagonist properly till quite some way into the film- a case of audience intimacy having to be earned, Far East expert Tony Rayns said. Apparently the film he admires most by Mizo, Straits of Love and Hate (i've not seen), is notable for its avoidance of close ups. Le Fanu regrets this absence a little as he likes the striking close up in Osaka Elegy (made just before) for instance. Le Fanu agrees with me about Sansho as Mizo's crowning achievement, and his status.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby Johndav » Mon Dec 26, 2005 8:52 pm

I like the little differences/ variations in Ozu, eg in this trilogy the sea ending in Late Spring/ sea beginning in Early Summer, train rides, Ryu as older brother or father etc. Tremendous actor. Love that joyous bike ride in Late Spring, sets us up for romance, but things aren't quite so predictable...

David Bordwell's book Figures Traced in Light excellent for study of Mizo's mise-en-scene- makes point that Hou Hsiao Hsien (obviously indebted to Ozu) has more in common with Mizo than generally thought. And the avoidance of close-ups in Maborosi (another Ozu-indebted masterpiece) may owe something to Mizo too. Audience intimacy has to be earned, as Ton Rayns says. His Mizo favourite is Straits of Love and Hate, notable for lack of close-ups, regretted a little by Mark le Fanu in his book Mizoguchi and Japan- at last one on the great man, in English! His earlier one on Tarkovsky excellent too. He agrees with me on sky-high status of both directors
and Sansho as Mizo's crowning achievement.

Michael Kerpan makes useful observation in Senses of Cinema article on varied camera positions, (if only sparing movement between cuts), with Ozu; may seem obvious but needed saying. More varied than Hou (eg Flowers of Shanghai i thought was too static).

Jeez, what's happened? I was cursing the above message not appearing, so did it again, mindful of Trevor's wish, and it did appear after all!

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby Johndav » Tue Dec 27, 2005 12:32 am

A few more thoughts; not long back i saw a trailer for The New World, with a brief glimpse of s cene that immediately struck me as reminiscent of Anju going into the water in Sansho the Bailiff. Then i remembered Terrence Malick is a great fan of the film, in fact has directed a stage version- no doubt a homage, then.

One thing i'd hoped a bit more of from Le Fanu's book was on Japanese art, woodblock prints etc, visual connections with Mizo's work, cos i'm interested in trying to spot similarities. Harunobu (1725-70) has some fine diagonal compositions, Mizo a master of extremely (+ more) complex diagonals- incredible how his camera can smoothly lead from one beautiful deep arrangement to another (eg The Loyal 47 Ronin, among others). And the question of vanishing point v relaxed wandering eye of oriental art can be related to Western editing/close-ups v longer takes, more distant shots perhaps. Anyway, i love the delicacy of Hiroshige (19th century) prints, eg his series 100 famous views of Edo. Some striking foreground elements/framing devices in his work at times, i think may be worth linking to Mizo, eg 30's films like Sisters of the Gion covered by Bordwell in his book. Both are subtle masters. Might Hokusai's generally more dynamic, imposing compositions relate better to say Kurosawa's style? Or just shallow, fanciful thinking on my part? I'd like some expert input on this subject.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby trevor826 » Mon Mar 27, 2006 2:53 pm

Still to come - please feel free to contribute.


There Was a Father
Early Spring
Floating Weeds
Equinox Flower
An Autumn Afternoon
End of Summer
Record of a Tenament Gentleman
The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice


Ugetsu Mongatori
New Tales of the Taira Clan
Story of the Late Chrysanthemums
Could really do with more.


Red Beard
Hidden Fortress
Dersu Uzura
High and Low
The Bad Sleep Well

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Thu Mar 30, 2006 4:29 pm

I'm sorry I wasn't able to get any comments (extensively) when I last saw The Bad Sleep Well. I'm a little surprised that Kurosawa has nothing written on him yet, I figured his section would fill up mighty quickly. I have Rhapsody in August in my pile, so that will most likely be the first one I'll write about.


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