Days of Youth

Two college friends, a sporty trickster and a bespectacled wanker, take a ski trip after exams, woo the same girl, find she’s already engaged, and return to receive poor marks, but they’re game to try again.

This incomparable satire, with its frank gags and jolly spirit right in the anagram of experience that is youth, builds to the bridegroom’s great line, “put yourself in my shoes! I’m shy!”

Ozu opens and closes the film (and a key scene in a ski cabin) like a fan.


Fighting Friends

The remnant of a great joke on Ralph Ince’s The Uninvited Guest.

Two truck drivers knock down a girl and take her home. She’s beautiful, they quarrel over her, she marries a student.

Reports say the student has a sister who’s a B-girl (Woman of Tokyo), to complicate matters.

Superb style, fluent in silent comedy, set in a milieu not far from Dodesukaden.

Ince’s film is advertised in the truckers’ domicile (“A Metro Picture”).


I Was Born, But...

Ozu’s schoolboys have to face a bully in the new neighborhood where their family has moved, much more difficult is their father’s kowtowing to his rich boss, in whose home movies the poor man plays the fool, appalling the boys, who have the rich man’s son under their thumb and don’t want to end up working for him.

A sublime, blissful comedy by a great master. Critics have noticed a likeness to Our Gang that is probably not fortuitous, Ozu is a genius at directing children, a genius all around, critics have noticed that as well, if not the specific remedy proposed.

The boss pays the bills, Father earns his keep, they can grow up to be somebody, refusing to eat is not the way.

A Chinese puzzle trick of rings and wires figures in the plot, the bully expropriates it but can’t figure it out.

The scene is boys’ world, traveled on foot beside the streetcar tracks on the outskirts of town, between home and school, an Ozu specialty akin to Fellini.

The bully and his cronies eat sparrows’ eggs raw for strength, but dutifully hand over pennies they’ve found to a bemused policeman who never smiles as he collects from their outstretched palms, largess unsuspected, a windfall, other people’s money...


Woman of Tokyo

Two pairs of brothers and sisters. A student works at his books, the girl works at an office all day and assists a professor with translations at night. A policeman is investigating her, the girl tells the student his sister’s a B-girl and worse.

The student kills himself. No fuss is made over the girlfriend’s fault, or the sister’s, on the contrary. The joke is left bare by these formal devices. One reporter congratulates another for putting his paper out ahead, that’s all.

The style is pure Ozu, a settled cosmopolitanism (the latest American film is If I Had a Million) easily associated here with Kawabata. The Japanese aperçus increase to a stretto near the end, answering the suicide.


Dragnet Girl

The boss’s son puts the make on a typist, she’s the moll of a petty gangleader, a new recruit to the gang is pleaded for by his sister.

The leader falls for her, lets the boy go, and moons about the gang’s haunts (nightclub and gym). The moll fights back but is so impressed by the girl that she decides to go straight.

The leader agrees, one more job to help out the girl and her brother, then away to a new life. They rob the boss’s son, nearly escape, the moll shoots the leader in the leg, pleads for his forgiveness, a few short years in jail and they’ll have a fresh start. He forgives her, they embrace, the cops take them away.

The milieu is akin to Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel, Wyler’s Dead End, and a number of contemporary films. The great kinship is to Hitchcock in various set-dressings treated as still lifes articulating the drama, a number of technical points, criticism of this film as atypical, and Ozu’s modest description of it as “yakuza melodrama”.

The superb opening sequence contains a tracking up-angle à la Resnais along hats on hooks in an office vestibule, one falls inexplicably, the camera similarly tracks behind a row of typists at work, one is missing. Ozu resumes the sequence in his finest effect just before the robbery, curtailed, a stretto.

The technique of Hijosen no onna is flawless, musical, and profound. These young gangsters pass from the scene of their dreary and temperamental lives, superficially posh, out of a bad dream into the light of day.


A Mother Should Be Loved

Lindsay Anderson’s In Celebration ends the way Ozu’s lost final reel might, Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander opens the central remainder after a missing first reel, Alex Segal’s All the Way Home also figures in the early parts of the film as it now stands.

The main business of the torso is to extricate a secondary theme of the eldest son’s disaffection, he’s favored as the offspring of the late father’s previous marriage, he wants to give his kid brother a break.

The tatami shot is in full sway, giving beautiful abstractions to classical views in the household.


Floating Weeds

A kabuki troupe on a tour of the provinces comes apart in a southern seacoast village amid shoal waters of family life (the old trade is a step up from prostitution), the actor-manager and his leading actress betake themselves to another engagement.

Ukiyo-e is the motif of the opening. Cinema is introduced with a sliding lighthouse on the railing of a ship.

The play is a sword in the mountains, dancing girl by the seaside, samurai sort of thing.


Late Autumn

When it ran at the New Yorker Theater in the autumn of 1973, Nora Sayre of the New York Times got it all wrong but added it up well, “people can’t finally control the lives of others, not even in the name of good intentions.”

The “theme of Westernization” she finds “subtle throughout” is simply Ozu, and so forth.

A study of motivations, character, psychology and all that, greatly interesting of course and magnified rather kaleidoscopically by a technique Richardson shortly introduced during the dinner sequence of Tom Jones, here the novelistic subjective camera is anyone and everyone (Sayre means this when she writes, “closer to fiction than to film”).

They all wooed her, the lucky stiff’s a stiff six years, the daughter’s twenty-four, the widow beautiful as ever.

What might be engineered (the college prof’s a widower, the executive has a young man at the office who’s eligible)?

“Marriage is really tedious when you think about it.”

In restaurants one hears, “thanks for waiting.”


An Autumn Afternoon

The odd reflection of events in Kurosawa’s Madadayo is a most penetrating study.

The events of a man’s life, ballgames and school, military service, business and retirement.

A peculiar case, the captain of a ship in the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Axis metaphor is a dead wife and a daughter keeping the house.

The wreck of a man’s life in such circumstances when the daughter’s married off.