He may be long gone, but the great Yasujirō Ozu lives on through his phenomenal filmography. Ozu was born today in 1903, and he died today in 1963, which was a little cruel of Death.
Considered one of the most influential filmmakers of all-time, the Japanese director dealt mostly (and most successfully) in his trademark genre of the home drama through the 1940s, 50s and 60s. 1953’s Tokyo Story is widely seen to be his masterpiece, topping last year’s Sight & Sound directors’ poll as the best film of all-time. He is well-known for his unique technical style, filming with the camera low to the ground and rarely moving it, having his characters talk directly into the camera and often using ellipsis to skip over what he found insignificant.
His films were generally quiet and mundane, as he depicted the everyday lives of his characters and showed how little moments can mean everything to them. In his personal life, he was always very close to his mother (he lived with her until she died, only a couple years before he did) and never married. And yet, on the screen, he had an astute insight into relationships between people when it comes to love and family.
1949’s Late Spring was the second Ozu film I watched (after the light Record of a Tenement Gentleman), and it remains my favourite, up to and including the devastating last moment. Chishu Ryu, who appeared in the vast majority of Ozu’s films, gives perhaps his best performance in this film as a father dealing with the fact that his daughter is getting too old and it is time for her to move out and marry a suitable man. I also love the divisive Tokyo Twilight (1957), his last black-and-white film, which is dark and melodramatic but totally compelling. If you’re a cinephile, you’ve probably seen some Ozu. If not, check him out!
Other birthdays today:
- Bill Nighy (64)
- Jennifer Connelly (43)
- Tom Wilkinson (65)
- Madchen Amick (43)