Tuesday, October 29, 2013
OTOH, I'll get a lot of (musical) work done.
Happily, I confidently predict that Mr. Wacha will continue his amazing run tomorrow, and defeat the Red Sox 5-1.
That will bring about the traditional Joe Wholestaff approach for Game #7, which tends to bring about a '93 Game #4 - type situation. Although both of these clubs have tremendous relief pitching -- I believe that Halloween at Fenway Park on Thursday night will be pretty darn scary!
15-14 Cards ...
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Composer Lewis Saul (b. 1952) graduated with a degree in Composition from the Interlochen Arts Academy and attended The Juilliard School before moving to Paris, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger for two years.
Midrash means "story" (Midrashim is the plural). A clever Rabbinic device, midrash is a method of interpreting the biblical text in a wide-ranging, free-wheeling, almost stream-of-consciousness style -- somewhat resembling the head-scratching, double-entendre writings of the great Zen masters.
As an example, the two words from my opening movement generated over 17 separate commentaries in the Midrash Rabbah -- a massive collection of the Rabbinic midrashim -- including this unusual, seemingly challenging observation:
"Thus, whoever comes to say that this world was created out of tohu and vohu and darkness, does he not indeed impair God's Glory! R. Huna said in Bar Chappara's name: If the matter were not written, it would be impossible to say it..."
... "it" being followed by this footnote:
"God first created tohu and vohu, and out of these He created the world. But this is not to be taught publicly!" (Midrash Rabbah, Genesis I, pp. 2-3).
The sages spun extremely complex webs of word association and pun-like wordplay in their attempts to imbue the Bible verse with new meanings and interpretations, sometimes going far afield from the original text.
In that spirit, I have composed two separate midrashim for five verses from the Torah -- one from each book. In most cases, the "plain text" inspired a kind of musical midrash, perhaps less concerned with the actual textual meaning and more inspired by the possible midrash-like free association technique:
1. MIDRASH Ia. The longest of these ten movements, it is also perhaps the most literal. What is before the beginning? Do I dare teach this publicly?
2. MIDRASH Ib. Perhaps there was a phase variance in this pre-universe! (Yes, I love Star Trek.) Steve Reich -- one of the pioneers of minimalism and a master at using phased musical phrases -- has always been inspiring to me. Halfway through the movement, the violin shifts to a 9/8 + 7/8 meter, thrusting against the regular 4/4 of the marimba. Planets collide, nebulas sparkle, dark matter permeates...
3. MIDRASH IIa. The previous verse 25 reads: "If you take your neighbor's garment in pledge, you must return it to him before the sun sets; ..."
This is a mitzvah, a commandment -- one of 613 in the Torah -- but my concern is with those two Hebrew words in verse 26 -- "in what else shall he sleep?" God not only explains the (humane) reasoning behind the commandment, but He promises that He will follow through.
The feeling of "closeness" is intended here, as if wrapped in a warm, slightly atonal, blanket.
4. MIDRASH IIb. This is perhaps more literal, i.e. communicating compassion.
5. MIDRASH IIIa. The idea of something holy or sacred gradually coming to mean something real in one's life.
6. MIDRASH IIIb. This is a sort of tongue-in-cheek homage to Mozart, whose music seems to me always holy! The half-step modulations are a salute to the crazy intentional dissonances in "The Musical Joke," K. 522.
7. MIDRASH IVa. This verse is familiar to Jews and Gentiles alike -- it is read in nearly every worship service, and is the pinnacle of every Jewish boy or girl's Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
The commentaries suggest that the Rabbis interpret this particular verse to be a general blessing for material and spiritual well-being. Thus a high-energy, feel-good movement, followed by ...
8. MIDRASH IVb. ... a calm and relaxed hymn of thanksgiving -- nervously cut short.
9. MIDRASH Va. The key Hebrew word is the verb RODEF -- "to chase or pursue." My wife's synagogue in Pittsburgh was called Rodef Shalom ("pursue peace"). As I composed these segments, I thought about how difficult it is to truly follow or pursue the really important things in life -- but yet at the same time, how absolutely critical it is that we all at least try to do so!
This is a literal metric chase between the two instruments -- very short and aggressive. The difficulty.
10. MIDRASH Vb. And the trying. Here -- in a sinuous 7/4 rhythm -- the two instruments combine to dream, hope and work together.
-- Lewis Saul
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Saturday, June 29, 2013
It was not until 1982 that I came to the realization that I was much more interested in studying the film; trying to figure out how it was made; beginning to understand the individual components, i.e., Director, Producer, DP, Set Designer, Composer, etc. -- and how things got put together.
During my time in Paris, I had been exposed to some Buñuel, Truffaut and others. It was pretty obvious that these types of films had little in common with the typical Hollywood product.
And then that day in 1982 when my wife and I went to see E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
I walked out of that theater having experienced what seemed like a completely new emotion: Filmic Manipulation Anger Syndrome.
I still had tears dribbling from my eyes from Spielberg's emotional, sappy ending.
And I was mad!
It dawned on me -- gradually -- that Mr. Spielberg had done quite a masterful job at prodding the sodium chloride from my tearducts. Bit by bit, scene by scene, John Williams cue by John Williams cue -- I was being manipulated!
And a damned fine job he (they) did of it. I spent the following months constantly thinking about how Spielberg had pulled it all off.
And for the next decade or so, I always kept at least one of my newly analytic eyes open during Hollywood attempts to lure me into their insidious design.
In 1999, everything changed.
I saw my first Kurosawa film (Red Beard). I could not get enough AK and soon had all 30 of his films.
What I noticed in his work (and later Ozu's), after much study, was that these guys used the exact same "manipulative" techniques that Spielberg was using -- but the difference was subtle. Instead of hitting us over the head with a musical/visual "cry now" cue, these non-Hollywood directors were trusting their audience not to need those types of sledgehammer clue-ins.
And it got better. Kurosawa, for example, took the corny old wipes from the 30's Saturday serials, and transformed the dusty old trick into an entire subset of his massive filmic vocabulary.
Ozu went even further, for example, by rejecting the artifice of lens size (he only used one, the 50mm) and set perfection (he loved to move a salt shaker two inches to the left from take to take, just for the hell of it). Some of the "heaviest" emotional scenes in Ozu occur in medium shots with no music or sound. Other times, crucial events in the plot (such as it is in Ozu films!) are completely elided -- leaving the (Ozu-presumed intelligent) viewer to figure it all out.
I soon realized I preferred watching this type of film to most of gunk coming out of Hollywood. Not much has changed in the past 15 years. My Top Twenty favorite directors:
- Akira Kurosaswa
- Yasujiro Ozu
- Zhang Yimou
- Andrei Tarkovsky
- Tom Tykwer
- Takeshi Kitano
- Stanley Kubrick
- Terry Gilliam
- Woody Allen
- Ang Lee
- Quentin Tarrantino
- Richard Linklater
- Alejandro González Iñárritu
- Frederico Fellini
- Wes Anderson
- Juzo Itami
- Pedro Almodovar
- Martin Scorsese
- Jean Renoir
Whoa! It's here.
Donald Fagen will be 65 in a few months. Old man, on behalf of all us aging motherfuckers who still think we can swing, plant funk, sew it all up and serve it on out -- we thank you! This has got to be one of the swingingest albums of all time. And as the kids say ... Really?
His fourth solo album promises to be a most delicious dish ... but is it a luscious dessert, a cherry-banana topping off the Trilogy ( Nightfly (1982) / Kamakiriad (1993) / Morph the Cat (2006) // or is it something brand new; perhaps the start of a new series ... or is it an enigma, to be slowly unwrapped over a long period of time; each listening revealing yet another wondrous kick on some ambiguous and-of-four which punches up a whole new set of matrices, weaving in and out of lyrics like this:
I can hold my breath
For a really long time now
I can hold my own
I'm not the same without you
Whoa! It's here.
Mike Ragogna's interview with Donald and Michael Leonhart
What stands out for me in this lovely interview with the two forces behind this product is the delicious way they "recall" the other talent on the disc, including Michael's father, Jay:
"DF: Well we've got a couple of acoustic bass players. We have a man named Jay Leonhart, of whom Michael is a progeny, we have a man named Joe Martin, I don't know whose progeny he is, probably Mr. Martin's ..."
Personally, I think this album should have been titled "q.v." Quod vide, which see; meaning check out every single musician on this date, and you will find an amazing artist in his or her own right, including Jay's daughter and Michael's beautiful sister, Carolyn:
For example, clicking on any of the three links above (Jay, Joe, Carolyn) will send you down a rabbit-hole of musical deepness (listen to the audio which plays when you click on Martin's name!) and must-check-this-out type of talent.
Especially, Michael Leonhart.
I. Slinky Thing
The first thing we notice is an acoustic bass! Mr. Joe Martin, ladies and gentlemen. As I said, q.v. Every single musician on this release ... and this dude is tasty! [If you click through on his name above, you will hear a clip from his latest...]
Check out the instrumentation here at the beginning: Bass, Clavinet (Leonhart [hereinafter referred to as ML]), Drums (also ML), Guitar (Jon Herington), and another sound which sounds like a soft synth sound; perhaps it is Fagen (DF) on Prophet 5.
It's interesting to note how the bass, clavinet and "soft-synth" parts are written-out while Herington slides around ...
It could not possibly be more deliciously funky!
It was an October morning
Near the carousel
I met a lithe young beauty
And we talked there for a spell
We walked up by the Great Lawn
And my heart began to sing
A madman on a bench screams out:
Hold on to that slinky thing (note the vibes [ML]!)
Hold on to that slinky thing
Sure is October, in any case. At least it was when I began this post...
An A Minor groove sizzles until the penultimate line in each verse when he shifts to some exotic false-dominant substitutions. The sizzle becomes positively steamy in the second verse:
We went to a party
Everybody stood around
Thinkin': Hey what's she doin'
With a burned-out hippie clown
Young dudes were grinnin'
I can't say it didn't sting
Some punk says: Pops you better
Hold on to that slinky thing
Hold on to that slinky thing
II. I'm Not the Same Without You
IV. Weather in my Head
V. The New Breed
VI. Out of the Ghetto
VII. Miss Marlene
VIII. Good Stuff
IX. Planet d'Rhonda
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I would estimate this mistake -- which most casual players would have avoided -- might have cost him, perhaps, 15 to 20 seconds in lost time.
So, at 0:00:08, Samura says: "Let's reset."
The object of a 100% completion of Mario Sunshine is quite simple, actually.
You must collect 120 Shine Sprites and 240 Blue Coins. The Sprites (twinkling, rotating 8-pointed yellow stars with smiley faces) are earned after completing an "episode" of a "level" of the Mario world; in addition, sprinkled throughout the game are various Sprites that can only be won by some clever gameplay, often using newly acquired devices which augment the power of Mario's water-weapon.
My daughters and I played this game for years and years -- and at least one of my daughters (although not myself!) completed the entire game. I can only estimate vaguely -- but I suspect that they probably played for at least 100 hours -- perhaps more -- to accomplish this task.
In this video, Samura completes 100% of the game in 3 hours and 43 minutes, 15 seconds. All 120 Sprites. All 240 Blue Coins.
Understanding the SpeedRunsLive box on the left is quite simple: The name of the "level/episode" / the number of Blue Coins collected (in parentheses) / and the cumulative time. When an episode is completed, the cumulative time turns into a + or - figure, indicating the split between this run and the previous world record (held by Samura -- 3:48:00).
The actual gameplay for this run begins at 0:07:05. Mario's very first belly-slide (the quickest method for moving him straight ahead) results in a crash (see the stars?).
"Horrible," Samura exclaims. Nevertheless, he dispatches the first Petey Piranha boss quite quickly.
The next task is to chase down "Shadow Mario" and spray him until he "dies." Samura quickly picks up a Blue Coin before racing back to the big "M" where he will enter the next level. He cannot enter until Shadow Mario (resurrected) races back and paints that big "M" and he has to wait two or three seconds for Shadow Mario to finally show up!
"Hey!" Samura seems surprised that he had to wait those few precious seconds before jumping in. The clock reads 8:56 as he begins the final section of the episode; the previous record is 9:47:10; can he complete it in 51 seconds?
Once again, Samura fails to execute a clean belly-slide right out of the gate. I believe he curses in Finnish! But the rest of the run is note-perfect, as far as I can tell.
The split is in red -- 6:03. He must make up that time quickly if he wants to set a new record.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
From the website FAQ: Q: But will there be a DVD and BluRay release of the restored version in the near future? A: No. The cost of recording the 5½ hour Carl Davis score is prohibitively expensive for the DVD/BluRay market… and of course you wouldn’t have the dramatic Polyvision finale that you’ll experience in the theater. The triptych would merely be letterboxed onto your television — no matter how big it is."
When I read that, I knew that I had to see this film! Traveling to SF by myself would be difficult -- but hopefully not impossible ... with my eldest daughter, Sarah, ready to pick me up at the airport and take me to my friend Robert's house in Oakland -- six miles from the Paramount Theatre, where the film was being shown.
Sarah checked into it -- and they actually are in compliance with the three or four handicapped spots on the lower level. Awfully nice of the fellas at the gate to tell us that there were no elevators after we asked about handicapped parking! not
- Napoleon (Albert Dieudonné). I would need to see the film at least two more times to register all the amazing performances; scene by scene. I can hardly think of a scene in which he does not appear. Although all of the actors bring a grandiose, stylized manner of acting -- completely typical of the period -- I felt that Dieudonné was particularly reserved for the most part. When he needed to project that authority and power, he was never over-the-top. At one point he is asked whether he is prepared to defend France. His YES is a powerful moment.
- Napoleon as a boy (Roudenko). In addition to the snowball scene, the kid is great as he interacts with an eagle (a potent symbol in the film, which Gance frequently superimposes over other images in gorgeous double-exposures).
- Robespierre (Edmond van Daële) who almost always is wearing the coolest pair of sunglasses you'd ever imagine existed in 1927!
- Joséphine (Gina Manés). Always gorgeous and her appearance (many hours into the film) marks the beginning of several humor-driven chapters, which gives the film an amazing burst of sorely needed energetic comicality. (One of my favorite scenes: Napoleon has just met Joséphine. She is fanning herself vigorously as she asks him, "What is the weapon from the other army that you fear the most?" Napoleon responds immediately: "Your fan, madame.")
- Louis Saint-Just (Abel Gance). One of Robespierre's buddies, he met the same fate in 1794. Reportedly, he was the only one that walked to the guillotine, "accepting his death with coolness and pride. At a last formality of identification, he gestured to a copy of the Constitution of 1793 and said, 'I am the one who made that'" (Wikipedia). Gance -- a young-looking 38 at the time of this film -- is a handsome devil. He wears an earring and shakes his head regally. Looking at him as Saint-Just -- try as one might to strip away the costume -- it is hard to believe that this young man conceived and directed this monumental masterpiece!
"With Napoleon I have made a tangible effort toward a richer and more elevated form of cinema; let yourselves go completely with the images; do not react from a preconceived point of view. See in depth; do not persist in confusing that which moves with that which trembles, discern behind the images the traces of tears which often imbue them. Only after this effort will you know whether or not the journey into history that I have given you is a lesson or a poem..."
"In climactic sequences, I created a new technique, based on the strength of rhythm dominating the subject and violating our visual habits. I speculated on the simultaneous perception of images, not only of a second's duration but sometimes of an eighth of a second, so that the collision of my images causes a surge of abstract flashes that touch the soul rather than the eyes. Then, an invisible beauty is created which is not apparent on the film and is as difficult to explain as the perfume of a rose or the music of a symphony."
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
- The DVD requires a region-free player.
- Like Days of Youth, there is no soundtrack -- try and imagine the music (and the benshi).
- The Shochiku logo is similar to what we've seen on our first three available films: a bas-relief with the Imperial crest and the date (1933).
- The background for the credits is a modern-looking painting which is dominated by dark crescent shapes surrounded by a connect-the-dots matrix.
- The very first shot is a stunner: a high crane shot down on a large empty concrete space. Two men, each with a long camera-facing shadow, walk left to right, while another solitary figure walks away from the camera.
- Cut; POV out a window with wooden slats hanging down. Notice the stunning composition here -- the right side of the window is open and two windows of the opposite building are perfectly framed between the wooden slats and the open window! (Ozu will repeat this shot near the end of the film.)
- The pillow shots here are striking:
- Cut; two grandfather clocks (one reads almost 3:40, the other around 3:47), swinging pendulums, time cards on far right;
- Cut; time cards and hats hanging on rack.
- Cut; a wall clock (showing 3:33).
- Cut back to the hats; a white one falls;
- Cut to ground level shot of the hat;
- Cut and then pan left to right right behind a row of female typists.
- Cut back to hats (including the empty peg where the white had once hung), panning left to right...
- Cut back to the previous pan of the typists.
- The pan stops and holds on a typewriter with no typist. She enters the frame and
- Reverse cut to a medium shot of Tokiko (Kinuyo Tanaka), checking out her work.
- Swinging office doors (WBK); Okazaki (Yasuo Nanjo), the president's son, looking over the mail, asks about his father and then has his assistant call in Tokiko. He gives her a ruby ring...
"What you do think that means?"
"If it means that, I'll give it back to you."
- Transition shots; door ("Private"), clock (4:15), door, two clocks; resume pan of typewriters, now being covered.
- Wastebaskets, overflowing.
- High crane shot, people leaving building (long shadows facing camera)
- Interior, looking out a translucent window with Gothic iron work ... Tokiko walking away; she stops.
- Is looking at herself in a store window (shot with camera facing her directly).
- Cut, Okazaki standing on corner. "Join me for some tea."
- As they exit frame, Ozu holds on scene.
- Two men enter frame; stop.
- Cut to their POV: Okazaki and Tokiko standing, talking.
- After Okazaki departs, Tokiko is walking with the two men, one on each side. It turns out they know each other. They have tabbed Okazaki as a "sucker" until she tells them that he's her boss's son and she does not want to get fired.
- The men run away suddenly; she crosses the street.
- We see why the men ran; a policeman enters the frame. He follows her (camera at feet).
- Cut; more pillow shots: scale, rings;
- Cut medium shot of boxers; Hiroshi (Kôji Mitsui) moves towards camera, skipping rope.
- Jyoji (Joji Oka) scene. Tokiko arrives.
- Cut to pan from behind bass, drums. Dance hall.
- "Who's coming to attack us?"
- Senko (Yoshio Takayama) approaches the strangers and does a little dance.
- (We will see him do it again in a moment, and later, at the gym.)
- As he will continue to do, Ozu elides the actual fight entirely. Note the sequence:
- The strangers follow Senko into the back room. They face him, ready to do damage, until Jyoji appears.
- Senko (dance) waves in the rest of the gang.
- Jyoji tells them to "see to Tokiko."
- The gang pauses, astonished that he will fight one against three.
- Ozu pulls the camera back, as all four men begin to take off their coats.
- In a cute bit of business, Senko reenters the room just as Jyoji is throwing his coat to him -- which Senko catches and then turns around and leaves.
- Ozu holds on the tense moment, facing the men about to fight.
- But ... surprise ... Ozu cuts to follow Senko out of the room and back to the rest of the group in the dance hall.
- And then, in a fine bit of silent film construction: - a quick axial cut to a medium-close shot of the group, all heads turning together;
- Cut to another group; girls rising from their chairs, and their heads all turning simultaneously;
- Cut back to the first group; all heads turn twice;
- Cut to a third group; people rising;
- Senko runs towards camera which is placed right behind the drummer; motions for them to play;
- Couples flood the dance floor;
- Cut to a POV behind the bar, profiles of Tokiko, Senko and his girlfriend. Tokiko:
- "Only a cannon could knock out my Jyoji."
- He returns, framed through two girls on left and right. Senko is ready with his coat; he is cool and collected.
- "Give some water to the three punks."
- Cut to the beaten punks, trying to regain their wits;
- ECU on three glasses of water on a tray, dice in the foreground;
- Senko goes off to deliver the water; Jyoji and Tokiko dance. Girls with yo-yos pass in front.
- Pillows: Tea pot pan; door opens to Jyoji, Senko, Tokiko and Kazuko (Sumiko Mizukubo), Hiroshi's sister.
- Senko returns with Hiroshi who wants to join.
- Visits sis at record shop. (Nipper, the RCA dog business) ... borrows money.
- Hiroshi playing billiards. Chalk. Fight. Broken up. More billiards.
- Comes home to an angry, disappointed Kazuko.
- Gym, Hiroshi talking with Senko. Someone to see Jyoji. He goes outside and meets Kazuko. To Hiroshi: "You have a visitor."
- "You'll never make it in this racket," then punches him.
The shooting of "I Was Born, But..." was interrupted when one of the children was hurt and this film was hastily prepared. Four boys have graduated college. Three of them eventually have to ask the fourth, the son of a company president, for jobs. He, in turn, gets one of their girls.
- The clip features Saitô Tatsuo and has a clean, bright look to it.
- Ozu's first sound film; albeit music and effects only (no dialogue).
27. Tôkyô no onna (Woman of Tokyo) (2/9/33) (ca. 70 min.) [Sound (music/effects) B&W Existing Shochiku print but no commercial release; clip of beginning 7:52 here.]
A girl works hard to put her younger brother through school only to have him kill himself when he learns that she has financed his education by becoming a prostitute.
- Filmed in eight days.
- The clip shows two scenes: first the brother and sister at home; she gives him money for his school tuition. Next, she is at work, a typist. A policeman interviews her bosses -- who praise her work -- but seems to get suspicious when they tell him that she also works for a professor as a translator "till late at night." The clip ends.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Through the eyes of two young boys (eight and ten), Ozu explores the loss of innocence as they gradually realize that their father is not the "boss" -- and since they can beat up the boss's son, they simply do not understand why their dad doesn't rule the roost, as well. They go on a hunger strike, but eventually realize that life seems to hold many cold and bitter truths.
Arguably, one of his best films from any period -- certainly, his greatest silent...
According to a Japanese friend, a fuller translation of the title might be something like:
- "I Was Born, But ... why do I have to go through all this hardship?"
- Shot between November '31 and April '32, but interrupted by the shooting of the previous film (#23). This partially accounts for the way the film turns dark towards the end -- Ozu's attitude toward it had changed...
- Ozu: "I started to make a film about children and ended up with a film about grown-ups; while I had originally planned to make a fairly bright little story, it changed while I was working on it, and came out very dark. The company hadn't thought it would turn out this way. They were so unsure of it that they delayed its release for two months." [Richie, p. 215.]
- The film went on to with the Kinema Jumpo First Prize for that year.
- Donald Sosin again composes and plays one of the finest silent film scores I've ever heard.
- The first Shochiku card resembles the one in "Tokyo Chorus" -- a bas-relief; a tall figure with a staff next to a lion with 1932 across its body.
- The background for the credit cards is hilarious: a man is standing at the base of three leaves extending from a stalk. He has on funny round glasses and is naked, covering his privates with his left hand.
- The first card reads: "A Picture Book for Grown-Ups."
- Original story by "James Maki." This was a name they made up for Ozu.
- In September of '31, five of Shochiku's big stars left to form their own company (including the soon-to-die Tokihiko Okada). Luckily, Ozu was able to retain Saitô Tatsuo, who is given the role of a lifetime here -- and he certainly delivers.
- Likewise, the kids (Hideo Sugawara and Tomio Aoki), who carry the film for the duration. They are terrific!
- Aoki was eight when he made this film -- his 14th IMDb entry! He died in 2004, age 80.
- ECU on car tire stuck, spinning in the mud.
- Truck driver, looking back.
- Dad (Saitô Tatsuo) walks into frame; CU on him.
- Spinning tire; back to Dad who is glancing up at something.
- His two boys, standing in the back of the truck looking down.
- Dad, tire and two-shot of Dad & truck driver who says something to Dad.
- With no title cards whatsoever, Ozu makes it simple to follow the progression -- Dad looks at the kids and says something; the kids get out and prepare to push from the back of the truck.
- Ozu finally fills the frame with the truck, which we see is loaded with a family's possessions -- trunks, suitcases and a doghouse.
- Dad is vigorously turning the front crank; the kids have moved away and are talking.
- Excellent ECU of tires spinning, truck rocking, getting out of the mud.
- Ozu holds on the muddy path of road after the truck leaves the frame. We see only the legs of the kids as they walk by.
- Cut to a front two-shot of the kids.
- The first intertitle:
- "You go on ahead. Tell your mother I went to see Mr. Iwasaki."
- The kids get back in the truck and Dad exits frame -- as Ozu holds on the long narrow road, engirded by telephone poles.
- We cut to we don't know where -- but Ozu has packed the foreground of this initial frame with all sorts of objects.
- The truck pulls up in the background and we the older boy (Ryoichi) jumping out of the passenger-side seat and his younger brother (Keiji) from the back. Ryoichi moves towards the camera.
- Gradually, Ozu puts it all together. The boys are talking to two young men who are putting away books. They are asking for their mother (Mitsuko Yoshikawa); they go off with her while Ozu remains with the young men. Two title cards reveal much. One man says to the other:
- "Mr. Yoshii stopped in to pay his respects to the boss."
- "That's why he's a manager, you could learn from him."
- (i.e. the men work for Yoshii, who is visiting his boss, Iwasaki.)
- Keiji glances back into the house and then turns back to Kozou and makes a ridiculous face.
- Kozou raises his right arm and makes a fist.
- Staying on him, we watch as he unclenches, takes off his hat and bows.
- Reverse cut and Mom is standing at the door with Keiji.
- Keiji and Kozou seem to develop a tentative friendship.
- Cut to a large imposing house. Dad is bowing to Mrs. Iwasaki (Teruyo Hayami) and her young son, Taro (Seiichi Kato) as Iwasaki (Takeshi Sakamoto, the man who was fired for being too old in "Tokyo Chorus") saunters into the scene from his tennis game (so Westernized).
- "He's always getting into mischief," Iwasaki remarks, pointing towards Taro as he leaves the scene.
- Dad responds: "All young boys should have a little mischief in them" (Beautifully ironic on repeat viewings).
- Notice the little kid with the sign. After he tries to take a bite from the bun, the kid next to him -- perhaps his older brother -- snatches it away. Ozu then gives us a CU on the sign which is not translated with a title card, but with a modern subtitle:
- "Upset tummy. Please don't feed him anything."
- The boys return to the gang and Ryoichi confronts the bully. The fight is interrupted when Dad walks by. He tells the boys they need to "get along" with the local kids.
- Note the beautiful transition which separates the scenes: a lone telephone pole which comes into view as the camera tracks the three characters. As soon as they exit the frame -- cut -- the pillow shot: the top of the pole, with bits of frayed cloth attached to the wires, being whipped by the wind.
- Cut from this to a POV behind a fence, watching Dad exercise his arms (while smoking a cigarette). Dad is perfectly framed between two pieces of laundry hanging on the line (an Ozu motif).
- Observe the breakfast scene, a microcosmic look at the essence of Ozu. Everything is played out in an extremely naturalistic turn (watch Hideo Sugawara, in particular). Dad is getting ready for work, the kids are eating ... it is nothing but a slice of morning life in which nothing happens.
- The kids, facing a potential beating if they go to school, play hookey and eat their lunch early (note how the kids are always putting the bento box on their heads!).
- Note a very clever transition: the kids are at school, marching, bored -- cut -- a rightward pan (rare for Ozu, even then) on office workers, all yawning (i.e., bored marching leading to a future of yawning).
- The brothers share a cigarette butt.
- Kozou runs into the boys and forges a teacher's "E" (for "excellent") on Keiji's calligraphy homework. The subtitle infers that he wrote the letter backwards!
- The gang calls out the brothers, who successfully defeat Taro and another boy. The bully is conspicuously absent from this fight.
- 0:36:56. Dad, who has found out about the bullying, walks the kids to school and pauses to make sure they actually go. At one point, the boys stop and turn around to see if their father is still watching (he is) and Sosin puts in this little cue that sounds exactly like someone saying, "UH-OH!" It's very clever.
- Taro confronts Keiji, this time with the bully present. Keiji loses, but Kozou intervenes and sends the bully home, crying.
- The brothers now point to Taro, and ask Kozou to "tell him off, too."
- They learn a very adult lesson when Kozou declines, saying that the boss is a much better customer than their dad.
- The brothers now "control" the rest of the hang. Given specific hand signals, any other boy must lie down on the ground at the leader's command. Taro did this, and now the brothers do it.
- Ozu completely gives over this part of the film to the childrens' POV, as they compare the complicated hierarchy of both their own world and that of the adults.
- 1) The bully's father calls back Ryoichi's earlier line: "Who made my kid cry?" The kids run away. This father is obviously a lot like his son...
- 2) The next kid demonstrates teeth removal by offering his dad a piece of caramel. The kids shake their heads in wonderment and scurry off again.
- 3) They meet up with Iwasaki and Chichi (Dad) and Taro finally settles the argument, once and for all, speaking to the brothers:
- "That's my Dad's car. So my Dad's more important than yours."
- The brothers test their leadership by ordering Taro to the ground. He does so, reluctantly, but Dad sees this and bows to Taro in apology as he dusts him off, looking at his sons sternly.
- Dad leaves and the brothers repeat their command. Again, Dad sees it, and this time takes the boys away with him.
- Again, notice the fermata, the pause -- such an important pacing tool for Ozu -- as he keeps the camera back as Dad and the boys walk further down the road.
- The famous home-movie scene follows. Ozu takes his time setting everything up.
- The kids, in their Sunday-finest, have to pay Taro a sparrow's egg as the price of admission; the adults are gathered around to watch the film.
- The first reel. Ozu's fondness for scatalogical humor on full display:
- The zoo. A large male lion.
- "It's like the lion on the toothpaste tube."
- "Which end does the toothpaste come out of?"
- Keiji answers: "The tail end."
- Next, a zebra. Taro asks:
- "Are they black stripes on white or the other way around?"
- The second reel: Iwasaki is crossing the street to meet what look like two young geisha girls. Offscreen, Mrs. Iwasaki is shooting daggers at her husband, while he desperately tries to save face by running the reel at fast forward speed (Sosin provides an appropriate cue).
- Before the start of the third reel, Chichi lights the boss's cigarette with appropriate deference. As the reel begins, it appears that the employees are all doing calisthenics, perhaps on the rooftop of the workplace building. (I believe it is still fairly common for Japanese employees to exercise with their colleagues at work.)
- The brothers are thrilled to see Dad on the screen.
- Chichi begins making funny faces for the camera. Without intertitles, Ozu undulates between Dad looking ridiculous on the screen with a two-shot of the brothers watching all this, as we see them becoming more and more disgusted, disappointed, and disallusioned.
- Meanwhile, all the adults, including Chichi, are laughing, although he seems a little embarrassed.
- Ozu never confirmed whether or not his 1959 film, Ohayô ("Good Morning") was a "remake" of this film -- but the one strong parallel that both sets of brothers must come to terms with is the apparent hypocrisy of the adults' behavior.
- In this film, after watching their father kowtow to the boss and look ridiculous, they demand that he should be the boss instead of Taro's father. They don't understand.
- In the '59 film, the kids are bewildered at the way adults use phrases like "Good Morning" and "have a nice day" instead of saying what they really mean.
- They go on a short hunger strike, which leads Dad to attempt to explain the nature of things to them. Do they understand?
- The scene ends on a wide shot -- the early morning rush, kids running to school, a tram whizzing by in the background...
*8. Gakusei romansu: Wakaki hi (Days of Youth) (4/13/29) (103 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
The first surviving film and what a precious jewel it is! Here is a peek at the 25-year-old director who would eventually make so many great masterpieces. Not quite yet, however. Here, he seems to be content with cloning the type of pictures his mentor Okubo had been churning out -- mindless comedies with as much spark and spirit as Ozu could put into it. There are, however, many telltale signs; predictors of Ozu's unique way of thinking regarding the making of a commercial film.
Two college students room together and prepare for a ski trip following final exams. They both fall for the same girl, but she is not interested in either of them; she's about to become engaged to the ski instructor. On the train back to Tokyo they commiserate about lost love, then find out that they've flunked. The friends try to maintain a positive attitude and look forward to the future.
- There is no recorded score for the film on this DVD. As you watch it, try to imagine the live music, and of course the benshi, who literally brought the film to life for the contemporary audience.
- The Japanese title cards have excellent English translations.
- The film opens with an awesome slow 180° pan showing the city of Tokyo. All of the usual Hollywood techniques from this era are on display throughout the film -- pans, fades, even a dissolving double-exposure at one point. The cutting is typical and the picture is filled with sight gags which were probably at least mildly amusing at the time.
- All of this will disappear in Ozu's mature work. The camera will remain fixed at his famous "tatami-mat" level (supposedly at eye level while sitting on tatami -- but in reality, Ozu often brought the camera much lower -- just a few inches off the floor). Nearly without exception, he will use only the 50mm lens; no filmic punctuation whatsoever except the straight cut, and complete disregard of the 180° rule in favor of direct, straight-on shots of each character separated only by straight cuts. But in 1929, we can see the influence of American filmmakers, particularly Ernst Lubitsch.
- After the first part of the opening pan, Ozu does a quick zoom-in (!) on the first title card -- "Near a University, Tokyo." The pan then continues past a soccer field and over the rooftops of houses. A cut and the pan resumes, closer to the structures. The camera finally comes to rest on a sign taped to the shoji -- "Room Upstairs to Rent."
- The actors are terrific. Bin Watanabe (Yuki Ichirô) an imp of a college student lives in the upstairs room. His scam is waiting until a pretty girl answers the ad. After rejecting a man then a dowdy young woman, we meet Chieko (Junko Matsui) who agrees to take the room.
- Ozu's sets show more and more details; here we see a poster on the wall for the hit Frank Borzage film "7th Heaven" , which won the very first Best Director Academy Award.)
- Out on the street, she runs into Shuichi Yamamoto (Saitô Tatsuo), a Harold Lloyd look-alike here. (In a few years, he will go on to play the father in Ozu's first big success, "I Was Born But...")
- With this one title card, Ozu avoids a lengthy and completely unnecessary exposition. We now know that they are friends.
- The film weaves gag after gag into the flimsy plot:
- Yamamoto props his left hand up against a pole; a sign attached reads "Wet Paint." The gag continues as he gets paint on his teacup and then his face, she laughs and Ozu fades to black.
- The next day the rickshaw boy is busily loading Watanabe's stuff.
- This is where we see the beautiful dissolve/double-exposure that I mentioned above.
Watanabe quickly overcomeds Yamamoto's objections and becomes his roommate.
- More gags. Watanabe spots an alarm clock (right next to a tin of Libby's California Asparagus) and hassles the sleeping Yamamoto with the usual alarm-clock gags until he wakes up. Watanabe quickly overcomes Yamamoto's token resistance and they are roommates.
- Watanabe makes himself at home -- he picks up the Libby's California Asparagus and begins to plop the long stalks into his mouth."Someday your kindness will be repaid." Yamamoto snatches away the canned asapargus as the rickshaw boy arrives with the many bags.
- Extremely naturalistic acting with very few title cards ... Chieko is sewing socks (a nice macguffin).
- One of the cutest gags in the film: She is trying to ignore him and goes back to her reading. He toys with the little figurines on her desk, twisting one of them (a male) into a position with four-on-the-floor, back arched up high and bug-eyed face looking right at Chieko. She laughs slightly. He looks uncomfortable. He'll try something else. The next time she looks up from her book, he is tickling the figurine's behind with his fingers. She laughs a little longer this time. He breaks a figurine.
- Finally, he sees the socks. "May I have these?" She nods in the negative, but Watanabe pushes on -- chutzpah on full display -- and tries them on. He stomps up and down like a delighted three-year-old, and breaks yet another figurine.
- There is some extremely fast cutting here -- the first several cuts are about one second each. First an ECU on the broken figurine on the floor. Medium on Watanabe, looking from side to side. The pair of skis resting against the wall, which fall over. Back on Watanabe and then back on the ECU of the broken figurine.The cuts then lengthen just a bit -- on her, then him; a title card ("Do you ski?" he asks her) and then back to the original medium master shot (he is standing she is sitting).
- Here we get a preview of some iconic images which run like a river through all the films of Ozu: telephone poles, factory smokestacks, a wind vane. The boys are looking at the objects trying to predict the weather. Watanabe: "It'll snow." Ozu will parallel this scene at the very end (a device used nearly continuously from here on).
- Watanabe throws his textbook into the air and holds it open to the page where it randomly landed. "This will be on the exam," he tells Yamamoto, who believes him and writes it all down on his shirt cuff. Cut to bell, students pour out of building.
- Notice the elision -- we see nothing of the actual taking of the exams, only the aftermath -- much like the weddings, etc. in the later films.
- A student is caught cheating. Watanabe tries to visit Chieko, but she's already gone skiing. Yamamoto is on a streetcar, but lost his purse. Nice shot of POV from the streetcar, leaving Yamamoto behind. FTB.
- Back home, Watanabe looks at his 7th Heaven poster and gets an idea. He gathers up some books and a trophy. Brief hesitation, and he returns the trophy to the shelf. As he descends the stairs, Ozu shoots a CU on his feet, which have stopped -- and he returns to get the trophy.
- The big reveal is that "7th Heaven" is the name of a pawn shop. Now they have money. A shot of a magazine, "Skiing News." A train schedule. POV front train car, looking forward at the tracks and surrounding view -- coming out of a tunnel. "Two more lunch boxes were sold that night."
- Watanabe writes possible exam scores on the dirty train window. He discovers the socks that Chieko has knitted for Yamamoto. Watanabe has a pipe. (From here on, almost all the students will be smoking pipes!)
- They arrive at the ski resort (Taguchi). The remainder of the film -- before a short coda on the train -- takes place on the slopes.
- The lettering on the back of Yamamoto's jacket reads: "Smack Front Only."
- "How many more electric poles?" Yamamoto asks. Watanabe: "136 more." Some landscape pans, dissolves. An intertitle: "At the 130th electric pole." (Watanabe was pretty close!)
- Yamamoto is not a good skier and is constantly falling down.
- Watanabe is constantly knocking Chieko down.
- Ozu inserts a wonderful sideways POV during one fall.
- Indoors, Watanabe and Yamamoto huddle under blankets. Two other students enter (one of them is Chishu Ryu, the most important actor in Ozu's later films) and discuss exam grades.
- Watch carefully as Watanabe tries to undo Yamamoto's ski bindings with the tip of his pole.
- He then leaves him planted in the snow as he races to catch Chieko. Yamamoto repeatedly tries to get up.
- Another wonderful tilted camera again, as he watches the people rushing by on a 90° tilt.
- Lovely scene of making tea in the snow.
- Note the lovely match-dissolve (watch the English lettering on the box of sugar cubes).
- Watanabe surreptitiously gives one of Yamamoto's skis a push down the slope.
- Note the naturalistic cutting -- Ozu allows Yamamoto (and the audience) a bit of time to realize his ski is gone. After Watanabe releases the ski, cut to a CU of the ski sliding down the slope. Cut to Watanabe, impish. Cut to Chieko and Yamamoto; he's handing her something to eat. Cut back to Watanabe, motioning and pointing towards the disappearing ski. Quick cut on Chieko and Yamamoto -- he looks at the ski -- cut back to the ski, quickly moving away. Cut back to Chieko and Yamamoto -- she is mildly amused; he starts to run after his ski. Watanabe is also laughing.
- Finally, the ski stops, but just as he approachs it, it continues to move (very fake looking; bad early Chaplinesque).
- The students drink, sing and dance. First Yamamoto, then Watanabe join in. "Dance to the rhythm of floor sound."
- Nice little details: Beer bottles knocked over. Watanabe is fondling those socks.
- [music]: "Stop crying. We'll meet again someday."
- A nice transition of related smoke -- Watanabe puffs on his pipe; stokes the fire -- the camera moves up to show a tea kettle with steam rising and finally a cut to the steam pipes rising from "Hutte Arlberg."
- The next day it is snowing heavily. The group of guys and Chieko are perfectly framed by two trees (early Ozu poetry!) ... Yamamoto and Watanabe have come to say goodbye. Watanabe leaves first and skis away easily.
- Yamamoto, of course, falls immediately and then again (Ozu reuses the 90° tilted POV shot).
- With the girl no longer between them, the boys are friends again. Watanabe takes Yamamoto's pack from him. The boys trudge away on their skis. FTB. Watanabe takes the fruit which Chieko gave them and puts them in one of the socks and drops it out the train window. Watanabe predicts a 40 on the exam, and writes the number on the window.
Suddenly, they see "Badger" (the professor) and eventually discover that the grade is 37, probably failing.
- Badger: "You'd better study, too." They return to their seats. Watanabe writes a 37 on the window.
- "In Tokyo, the west wind has blown steadily since morning." Again we see the telephone lines; smokestacks, etc. Yamamoto is looking out the window-- Watanabe motions for him to close it."Smile, I'll find you a better one." Watanabe makes a new sign. He seems to be explaining his "scam" to Yamamoto. Two friends talk. Exterior, on the sign.
- Begin the same pan from the beginning (except in reverse -- left to right here). FTB. The End.