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Early Summer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Romy Chiarotti at 2:01 pm on Friday, April 9, 2010

This is my midterm essay, but I think it sufficiently reflects my reaction on Early Summer as a journal entry…

Yasujirō Ozu made his mark as a legendary Japanese director and screenwriter in the1950’s. Ozu was well known for his unconventional style of directing. His particular style was not fully developed until the post-war talkies. Ozu’s films consist mainly of slow family dramas that emphasize emotion rather than plot, as stressed in his personal quote, “Get rid of all the dramatics and show a sad character; without using drama, make the audience feel the emotion”[1]. The betrayal of pure, deep human emotion was his ultimate goal in film directing. His use of long takes, long silences, and slow-paced scenes helped execute the concept of real time and real emotion.

Yasujiro Ozu was one of the first directors to use the “titami shot” throughout his movies, which was one of the many effects he was known for. The “tatami shot” is a camera angle in which the camera is placed at a low height, as if the observer was in a kneeling person. This low stance of the camera still managed to obtain straight-on long shots, which was prominently used throughout his films.

Yasujiro Ozu had an eye for aesthetics. Each scene of his films had had careful, complex, and exquisite composition. His use of Japanese art, rice paper screen doors, and carefully placed objects made each shot a work of art. The architecture in the shots were mainly composed of rectangular shapes from the screen doors, creating a two-dimensional framing in each shot. Any still from one of his films depicts pure beauty, for he puts careful consideration into the composition of each shot.

Ozu’s fame arose from his unusual style and rebellion against basic Hollywood norms and continuity editing. Ozu was merely uninterested in what was expected of him in terms of continuity editing. Over-the-shoulder shots are typically used in continuity editing, though Ozu has the camera gazing into the eyes of the character; a very unsettling, yet powerful tool he is known for. His transitions were also unsettling and unusual. Instead of fading in and out of a scene, he would use a shot of an inanimate object between scenes (pillow shot) or he would just use a direct cut. The continuity rule that Ozu was most famous for ignoring is the 180° rule. His placement of characters from one shot to another was not consistent, though once again, this was a conscious choice to disregard conventional rules.

One movie that brilliantly exempted Yasujiro Ozu’s style was Bakushû aka Early Summer (1951), which was about a post-war Japanese family and their attempt to marry their daughter of 28. The movie begins with a montage of aesthetically pleasing shots of the ocean, a caged bird, and the hallway. This montage was Ozu’s way of opening the film to welcome the viewer into his world of the complex, wonderfully composed shots, which they will see between every scene of the film (pillow shots). In one scene, Koichi and two older women were talking about a man that they wanted to fix up with Noriko. In this scene, there were long shots of the three of them all looking in particular directions while talking to each other, then the camera would focus on one of them looking straight at the camera while speaking or in another direction opposite of where they were looking in the long shot. This is just one of many examples of Ozu’s discontinuity. Another example in which he defies the 180° rule is in the scene with the mother, son, and daughter at the table. The characters face in contradicting directions from shot to shot. In the shot where the mother returns to the correct axis, her back is facing the camera, which was a remarkable and unusual character position compared to classical Hollywood cinema.

Bakushû was a top rated film, which led to the peak of Ozu’s career. Bakushû truly exemplified Ozu’s unforgettable style. Ozu stirred up controversy in the world of Japanese film because of his unconventionality. Hasumi wrote that Ozu chose a persistent approach towards film and its limits, liberating himself from the ambiguity of outlines, dampness and shadows[2]. Nevertheless, Yasujiro Ozu’s unconventional style is what gave him fame as a director.

[1] nyff/ozu4.htm


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