Tuesday, October 4, 2011

203. Ozu Films #9-21 (1929-1931)

9. Wasei kenka tomodachi (Fighting Friends) (7/5/29) (ca. 100 min. [?]) [Silent B&W NEP but 2:29 survives. See it here.]

Two truck drivers fall in love with the same girl.

The short clip begins with a title card "Evening." A man (Yuki Ichirô) enters into what is presumably his home and gives his (probably girlfriend?) a kimono which he bought secondhand. She is delighted and goes into the other room to try it on. (Prominent poster on the wall for either The Uninvited Guest [1923] or The Uninvited Guest [1924].)

A second man arrives (he looks scruffy; more like a truck driver than the other guy!) to the first man's obvious annoyance. The woman comes back into the room with her new/old kimono. A series of shots establishes the tension between the two men. They engage in some sort of eating contest (I can't really tell what's going on here. It appears that Man Two eats these little round things that are surprisingly hot; Man One also eats them (or does he? look carefully -- he may be performing a sleight-of-hand; can't tell) but the heat apparently doesn't bother him. Man Two finally takes a long drink of water from the fishbowl. Man One laughs heartily.

10. Daigaku wa detekereda (I Graduated, But...) (9/6/29) (ca. 100 min.) [Silent B&W NEP but 8:16 survives. See it here.]

Even with only eight minutes of film, it is plain to see that Ozu is evolving; moving beyond the 'nonsense-mono' of his previous pictures to a newer, more serious dynamic.

Takada Minoru goes for a job interview and turns down the offer of receptionist, thinking it's beneath him. However, when his mother arrives, along with his fiancee Machiko, he conceals his unemployment until the marriage. When Machiko discovers his situation, she has a fit. Later that evening, Takada patronises a bar and finds Machiko moonlighting there. He is furious with her but eventually he becomes aware of her sacrifice, and pleads with his interviewer for the job he rejected. Instead, he is told that the previous offer was a test, and he is given a better position.

Machiko is played by the amazing Kinuyo Tanaka, who would go on to become one of the most important actresses in Japanese film history. (Her turns in Mizoguchi's Ugestu and Sansho the Bailiff, for example, are unforgetable.)

The clip has a soundtrack of traditional Japanese music (if you enjoy this, try any of these beautiful Toru Takemitsu CD's! @ # $ % ^ ) ...

  • The same logo screen described above for Days of Youth (brick background) is the first image of the clip.
  • After Minoru leaves the interview, he tears up his resumé and the pieces fall at his feet. Ozu continues his penchant for showing us this angle at a dynamic, dramatic moment...
  • There are several places where you can see the flashes of a frame or two of the original Japanese title card.
  • Again, Ozu prominently displays a poster for a Hollywood film -- in this case, Speedy, starring Harold Lloyd.
  • A nice use of parallelism: Minoru is at a bar when he spots Machiko, who -- unbeknownst to him -- has been working there as a hostess/waitress. He sees her light a match for customer's cigarette. He is about to light up himself, but when another hostess offers him a light, he declines it and puts down the cigarette. Later, at home, she tries to help him light his cigarette, but he ignores her and she burns her finger.
  • My Japanese friend tells me that the difficult translations for these "but ..." titles might be something along these lines:
    • I Graduated, But... = ... why is my life so unsuccessful now?
    • I Flunked, But... = ... so many wonderful things are happening, it doesn't matter!
    • I Was Born, But... = ... why do I have to go through all this hardship?

11. Kaishain seikatsu (The Life of an Office Worker) (10/25/29) (ca. 85 min.) [Silent B&W NEP]

A comedy (?) about a husband and wife who look forward to a year-end bonus, only to discover that, because of the general depression (the film was released on October 25, 1929), the husband has been fired. He looks for job, fails to find one, and is finally hired by several friends.

The term shomin-geki ("home drama") begins to appear in Ozu's filmography at this point. Perhaps he is being pigeon-holed here -- but regardless of how faithful he was or was not to the accepted norms of the genre is besides the point. Ozu had found his calling.

12. Tokkan kozô (A Straightforward Boy) (11/24/29) (ca. 57 min.) [Silent B&W NEP but 1:29 survives. See it here.]

A romp about a hapless crook who gets more than he's bargained for when he kidnaps a brat with an insatiable appetite for sweets. Unable to keep him under control, the kidnapper returns him to his father, who refuses to take him back. He tries to dump him on his playmates, but he incites them to demand toys and other goodies from him, making him run a mile.

Richie brilliantly sums up Ozu's maturation with seven filmic signposts, all signifying important elements of his developing style and keys to his ongoing journey in making brilliant, important films:
  • 1. More interested in character than in comedy.
  • 2. He had found his major theme: the Japanese family, either directly or in its extensions, the school and the office.
  • 3. This led to an interest in society at large, though he always preferered to see this larger entity reflected in the smaller.
  • 4. This led to the very particular shomin genre, ("home-life") the class that was most typically Japanese and at the same time formed the larger part of his audience.
  • 5. Found in children a vehicle for his ideas, in particular for the kind of social satire he was now developing.
  • 6. Gradually limited his technical means, giving up fades, dissolves, etc. and eventually creating a plain style that was superbly suited to his mundane subject matter.
  • 7. At the same time, Ozu was a commercial director. His films were intended to make money while showing life as he saw it. For this reason he made many films we consider atypical of his work. It was later that he gained control and was able to make only the films he wanted to make (Richie, p. 208).

The short clip is tantalizing. We can only imagine how good the entire picture must have been.

  • It begins with Bunkichi (Saitô Tatsuo) sitting on a bench overlooking the city next to small boy, around ten years old. As a policeman looks on, the kid puts a butterfly net over Bunkichi's head and then peels off his fake moustache. Possibly for the benefit of the watching policeman, Bunkichi makes a game of it and sticks the moustache on the kid, who immediately takes it off and puts it back on the side of Bunkichi's face. He slaps the kid a few times, who then begins to cry. An intertitle looks like it might say something like, "ooh, that hurt; ooh, that hurt!" [the Japanese is repeated] ...
  • As he tries to console the boy, the imp again rips off his fake moustache. End of clip.
  • The 57-minute film was reportedly shot in three days.

13. Kekkongaku nyûmon (Marriage for Beginners) (1/5/30) (ca. 107 min.) [Silent B&W NEP]

Husband and wife tire of their mutual life.

14. Hogaraka ni ayume (Walk Cheerfully) (3/1/30) (ca. 100 min.) [Silent B&W {acc. to Richie,16mm finegrain master with Shochiku, but the film has never been commercially released to my knowledge -- clip of 2:57 here}]

A young delinquent eventually reforms.

  • Apparently everything about this film is extremely "Americanized."
  • The clip shows two different cars with two different sets of people travelling parallel to a train (which we also see). In one vehicle, a man picks up an old doll from the side of the road and then later throws it out the window. In the other vehicle, a man's hat goes out the window (twice).
15. Rakudai wa shitakeredo (I Flunked, But...) (4/11/30) (ca. 95 min.) [Silent B&W {as above acc. to Richie,16mm finegrain master with Shochiku, but the film has never been commercially released to my knowledge -- no clip}]

A motley crew of students face "exam hell". When not studying, they hang out at a local coffee shop and flirt with the pretty waitress. She seems to take a shine to one of them, Takahasi. Takahasi prepares for the exam by scribbling crib notes on his shirt. However, the landlady takes the shirt to the launderette and he flunks. His four best friends who live across from him, also fail, but his fellow lodgers all pass. Ironically, it's the graduates who leap from the frying pan to fire - job hunt hell. Takahasi and his friends enroll for another term at college and become cheerleaders.
  • Note the reuse of the crib notes on the shirt cuff (see Days of Youth, above).
  • Chishu Ryu apparently has an important role in this one. He soon became aware, according to Richie, that he was playing Ozu's alter-ego [p. 210].
16. Sono yo no tsuma (That Night's Wife) (7/6/30) (100 min.) [Silent B&W {film exists as per above; no commercial release.} Clip of 6:13 here]

A romantic melodrama: a father with a sick child turns robber and is caught.
  • The clip is astonishing! It begins with the man tending to his child, then cuts to a woman who is holding a man at gunpoint with two guns!
  • In this short scene, Ozu holds the tension high with quite a bit of cutting and a wide variety of shots, including several close-ups obviously intended to jar and ratchet up the suspense.
  • The prisoner looks at his pocket watch. It reads 1:50 (presumably A.M.). A FTB and up on a wall clock which reads 3:07. Long slow pans follow, finally revealing the husband working to soothe his sick child.
  • The wife is getting sleepy. A wonderful ECU on the man's hand, lightly tapping the chair; later the same on his shoes.
  • A poster on the wall has the names Sally O'Neil and Jack Egan. An IMDb paired-search reveals that they made two films together: Mad Hour (1928) and Broadway Scandals (1929).The poster probably is for the latter, since it pictures dancing flapper-girls in a chorus line ...
  • In a beautiful sequence, the camera slowly pans left past some hanging laundry (a future "pillow-shot" motif that will appear in nearly all of Ozu's later films!) and many other objects, the camera suddenly moves outside where we see a boy with a cart delivering milk (it is morning). As the boy and his cart leave the frame, the shot pretty much perfectly reverses itself -- the pan is now going to the right and when we finally land on woman, she is asleep. She awakes with a start and Ozu quickly reverses the shot to the show the man holding the two guns. She is frantic.
  • As the clip ends, she is trying to run away -- he is talking to her, and puts the guns into his pants pockets.
Erogami no onryô (The Revengeful Spirit of Eros) (7/27/30) (ca. 41 min.) [Silent B&W NEP]

Typical Shochiku, atypical Ozu: a nonsense-comedy ghost-story picture made at the spa to which Ozu had been sent to recuperate. Ozu remembers nothing about the film.

18. Ashi
ni sawatta koun (Lost Luck) (10/3/30) (ca. 60 min.) [Silent B&W NEP]

A film about office workers and their insufficient salaries. Again, Ozu admitted that he could not remember a thing.

19. Ojosan (Young Miss) (12/12/30) (ca. 130 min.) [Silent B&W NEP]

A typical light comedy about a girl journalist, distinguished by Ozu's sense of humor and his respect for character. A big star-filled spectacular, it surprised the studio and possibly the director by winning Third Prize in the prestigious Kinema Jumpo polls for that year.

20. Shukujo to hige (The Lady and the Beard) (2/7/31) (97 min.) [Silent B&W {as above, existing print but no commercial release} -- no clip]

Another college comedy, about a bearded cheerleader and a young lady of good family. Eventually she tames him and he shaves. Finished in eight days.

  • A more detailed summary appears on the primary Ozu site:
  • Okajima, a college student with invincible kendo swordfighting skills, both vexes and amuses women with his conservative ways and his big, brushy beard which he carries with pride. One day, on his way to his friend Baron Yukimoto's party, he rescues the demure Hiroko from a brazen swindler, Satoko. He goes to Hiroko's company for a job interview and is rejected. Hiroko suggest that he shave off his beard and he at once lands a job, and attracts attention of both Yukimoto's sister and Satoko. But his heart is set on Hiroko, and despite some mix-up with Satoko, their faith in each other is unshaken.
21. Bijin aishu (Beauty's Sorrows) (5/29/31) (ca. 158 min.) [Silent B&W NEP]

Two young men, one serious, the other a playboy, meet the daughter of an eminent sculptor. The playboy marries the girl, whom they both love; the serious one gets the statue. Later, she dies and the husband wants the statue. The two men fight; they both die.
  • Richie: Some who remember seeing this film say it was not as bad as it sounds. Ozu, however, said that he wanted to make a nice, light picture, got too earnest about it, and it turned out slovenly.

No comments: