Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Ozu Again

Actually it's not true that Ozu never moves the camera. I watched Early Summer last night and the camera moves quite a bit. There's even a crane shot. 

Critics want to pin him down as a conservative, as a radical, as supporting marriage, as opposing it- even as a gay activist. This ongoing argument merely goes to demonstrate how inscrutable he is.

He had the character for "nothingness" inscribed on his grave. There is no Ozu. he doesn't exist in his films. 

There's just an observing eye. But it's not an all-seeing eye. There are things it sees and things it doesn't. It's a human eye, not the eye of God.

Late Spring is often described as a tragedy. A father arranges a marriage for his immature, clingy daughter. At the end of the film they are both unhappy. But in Ozu there are no endings. The final shot is of waves breaking on a beach. Life goes on.  In the long run the father may well be proved right. He has engineered a life for his daughter. The two of them are unhappy now. But tomorrow, in a week's time, in a year's time, things will be different- maybe better, maybe worse. We don't know.

In Early Summer, the daughter chooses one man and rejects another. We only ever get to see the one she chooses- he's solid, dependable, not very exciting- a widower still in mourning for his dead wife. After the choice has been made, we- the camera/director/audience- tiptoe to the door of the room in which the other man is sitting, but we don't get to look in. This other man is the road not travelled by and we will never know- as the heroine will never know- whether or not she made the right decision.

But decisions have to be made and, once made, dealt with. At the end of Early Summer an anonymous bride is shown crossing a field with her retinue.  That's life. That's the Ozu world-view in a single shot. We are always in passing- moving from here to there- and all we ever have or know is the present moment.
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