Places, Images, Times & Transformations

Ozu Yasujirō

(1903-63). Film director. Noted for his works on contemporary Japanese family life. Born in Tokyo. In 1923 he became an assistant cameraman with Shōchiku Co., Ltd., one of Japan's most important film companies. He became a director in 1927. After making numerous short comedies, his subject matter eventually narrowed to a concern for the activities and problems of the Japanese family, a social unit that he saw disintegrating under the pressures of modern life. Following World War II, Ozu took a stern view of the corrupting influence of postwar society on the institution of the family. Tokyo monogatari (1953, Tokyo Story), his most famous film, expresses this view and another common element element in Ozu's cinema: several peripheral characters are negligent relatives who do not meet their obligations to the family. Ozu listed this film as one of his personal favorites, along with Chichi ariki (1942, There Was a Father) and Banshun (1949, Late Spring). In his last films, Ozu's outlook was one of gentle resignation to the ways of the world. His characters face the same problems but bear their disappointments with wistful good humor. Ozu refined a singular technique that has come to be regarded as the essence of the Japanese cinema aesthetic. It is characterized by low camera placement, static compositions that proceed in leisurely and well-ordered transitions punctuated only by simple cuts, and laconic dialogue with the plain ring of everyday conversation. His films are characterized by an elegant simplicity. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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