{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Friday, June 17, 2005

Yasujiro Ozu

I entered the world of Ozu this week. His world is like my world and your world, ordinary people, daily-life, same suffering and same everyday sadness. Like Fassbinder, Ozu is blamed many a times for repeating the themes and even the same stories. He actually made a remake of his own film since he liked the idea too much. Ozu is also blamed to be a minimalist, which is again very disturbing as Ozu's art is very detailed and very complicated if anyone has the right senses. In a very prolific career, Ozu made some 54 films (only 36 of them exist today), out of them lots were in silent era and he was torchbearer of silent cinema till late 40s and all this love for images and the composition of rich frames shows in his talkies too.

Although the pet theme of Ozu's Cinema is about family life, he himself never got married. Also Ozu is not much interested in plot details, most of plot details are not shown directly but through some references, most of the screen time is reserved for 'greater good'. The most celebrated masterpiece of Ozu's career is a movie called Tokyo Story which invariably figures in top 10 lists of critics across the globe. Tokyo story is the only Ozu Movie I have seen, and which had a great impact on me and all the recognition received by this movie is deserved to the last decimal place. I will write about this movie in detail later but for now I will continue about Ozu and some of the observations that I gained by watching the masterpiece.

The popularity of Ozu's work in Japan is well known; it came to the wider world audience as late as 70s. Other notion about Ozu's work was that they are too Japanese, that is as baseless as saying Bergman's work is only for philosophers as it is too philosophical. Any work of art ought to have the smell of region where it comes from, isn't Ray's work talk about Bengali sensibilities. It is more beautiful and soulful that way. One more thing that make Ozu's work very dear and approachable are the themes they deal with, if you are living you are sure to have experienced them, and Ozu handles these seemingly simple situations and plots with soft yet incisive acumen, never going melodramatic but always baring the right emotion and hitting the most fragile nerve with remarkable insight to it. And then there is camera-work, which is done with very small tripods to give a low angle and full view of the scene as characters move in haze-maze of Japanese houses, the compositions are like frame into frame into frame, very theatrical. The images of contrasts show the ever widening generation gaps, the visual of ordinary countryside juxtaposed with fuming chimneys of Tokyo. But all this cannot work if there is nothing that touch the heart in a true sense, not that we are looking for any emotional extravaganza or any commandments on morality, or for the matter, any commentary on society. Ozu's cinema is a cinema of change and the people and how people cope with it and can they ever cope up with this race.

Here Ozu seems like a soft pessimist, not complaining, not rationalizing, not moralizing and not even creating any bias or fake-sympathy. Ozu just looks at people sufferings in this world and shows it with no pretensions, with aloofness, with a sense of certainty those things and people change and how nothing is as pretty as it seems. With all the loneliness, goodness and evil in society, we are sure to fall on every side of it, its inevitable, we will simply succumb to it. Although Ozu's work revolves around families and social rules and the common man trapped in them, they make a big statement against them, all this commonsense pragmatism and worldly-wise wisdom is ridiculed in the simplest of ways. The art of Ozu is smooth, deeply pensive, devastatingly incisive and over all universally true. Ozu is must-dope for any cinephile. Go enter the world of Ozu and meet yourself.


Alok said...

Minimalism is a term of praise and not of abuse! Ozu is praised for being a minimalist.

Minimalism signifies artistic economy and conviction to the core, essential truth. Rather than being simplistic, it is actually very complex.

Ozu can say a lot using almost nothing...compared to that many films use all kind of tricks and visual razzle dazzle and manage to say absolutely nothing at all. and there lies the greatness of Ozu and other minimalist filmmakers.

anurag said...

I got your point. In Tokyo story, I noticed that there were only framing of camera that mattered but all the techniques like fade outs, dissolves etc are not used. Looked like Ozu was cutting all the unnecessary technicality to get to the core.