Yasujirō Ozu (小津 安二郎, Ozu Yasujirō, 12 December 1903 – 12 December 1963) was a prominent Japanese film director and script writer. He is known for his distinctive technical style, developed since the silent era. Family, especially the relationship between the generations, are among the most persistent themes in his body of work.
The style of his films is most distinctive in his later films, and he had not fully developed it until his post-war talkies. He did not conform to most conventions, most notably the 180 degree rule. Also, rather than use the typical over-the-shoulder shots in his dialogue scenes, the camera gazes on the actors directly, which has the effect of placing the viewer in the middle of the scene. Ozu did not use typical transitions between scenes, either. In between scenes he would show shots of certain static objects as transitions, or use direct cuts, rather than fades or dissolves. Most often the static objects would be the buildings, where the next indoor scene would take place. It was during these transitions that he would use music, which might begin at the end of one scene, progress through the static transition, and fade into the new scene. He rarely used non-diegetic music in any scenes other than in the transitions. Ozu moved the camera less and less as his career progressed, and ceased using tracking shots altogether in his color films. He also invented the "tatami shot," in which the camera is placed at a low height, supposedly where it would be if one were kneeling on a tatami mat, However this is mistaken, as the camera is often much lower than the eye level of a kneeling person, often around 1-2 feet off the ground. He used this low height even when there were no sitting scenes, such as when his characters walked down hallways. This style of filmmaking produced quiet and thoughtful films of rare beauty and elegance.
sences of cinema
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”. To expand upon this, the Japanese concept of mono no aware
can be related to Ozu's sensibilities and worldview. Mono no aware
is a term used to describe the awareness of mujo
or the transience of things and a bittersweet sadness at their passing. It 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. 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.”
Tokyo University digital museum
The Guardian, Friday 10 June 2005
Kitano's Hana-bi and the Spatial Traditions of Yasujiro Ozu