A film by Yasujirô Ozu
25th Nov 2012; 5.45 pm
Perks Mini Theater
As far as cinema is concerned, Ozu was ahead of his time, and Early Summer is a great example of the way his films show us the inertia of change in the lives of extended families slowly disintegrating in the wake of modernization. In this installment, a mother and father are trying to find a proper husband for their aging daughter so that they can retire to a rural town.
Matchmaking conversations and strategies at work and home strain the already creaking structure of this extended family, and through the cracks we begin to see the startling differences between each of the three generations involved.
Ozu is fascinated with all the things that we lose as time progresses through generations, war, and the disorienting march of modernization. In Early Summer, these reflections take the form of balloons slipping away, caged birds, or a broken loaf of bread. His slow pacing gives us time to explore this curio shop of gestures, images, and unspoken reflections on the quiet bonds of family.
Several times, Early Summer also slips out of Ozu’s typical low angle, and wide shots of the sea or fields of barley punctuate the film with the grace of simple geometry. This list would be incomplete without Ozu’s formative reflections on what happened in the middle of the 20th century, the fallout of which has settled across the way we see ourselves as part of families, societies, and the patronizing pace of progress.
12th Dec 1903 - 12th Dec 1963
"I have formulated my own directing style in my head, proceeding without any unnecessary imitation of others." – Ozu
Ozu was born on December 12, 1903 in Tokyo. He and his two brothers were educated in the countryside, in Matsuzaka, whilst his father sold fertilizer in Tokyo. Ozu developed a love of film during his early days of school truancy, but his fascination began when he first saw a Matsunosuke historical spectacular at the Atagoza cinema in Matsuzaka. Ozu's uncle, aware of his nephew's love of film, introduced him to Teihiro Tsutsumi, then manager of Shochiku. Not long after, Ozu began working for the great studio—against his father's wishes—as an assistant cameraman.
Ozu's work as assistant cameraman involved pure physical labour, lifting and moving equipment at Shochiku's TokyoThe Sword Of Penitence that became his first film as director (and only period piece) in 1927. Ozu was called up into the army reserves before shooting was completed. No negative, prints or script exist of The Sword Of Penitence—and, sadly, only 36 out of 54 Ozu films still exist. studios in Kamata. After becoming assistant director to Tadamoto Okubo, it took less than a year for Ozu to put his first script forward for filming. It was in fact his second script.
Days Of Youth (Wakaki Hi, 1929) is Ozu's earliest extant picture, though not especially typical (and preceded by seven others, now lost) as it is set on ski slopes. Stylistically it is rife with close-ups, fade-outs and tracking shots, all of which Ozu was later to leave behind. Three years later came what is generally recognized as Ozu's first major film, I Was Born, But... (Umarete wa Mita Keredo..., 1932). This moving comedy/drama was a great success in Japan both critically and financially. It was one of cinema's finest works about children.
Thirty years into his filmmaking career Ozu was making films which, like Kurosawa's Ikiru (1952), questioned the sense of spending your whole working life behind a desk—something that many of his audience must have been doing.
Ozu's films represent a lifelong study of the Japanese family and the changes that a family unit experiences. He ennobles the humdrum world of the middle-class family and has been regarded as “the most Japanese of all filmmakers”, not just by Western critics, but also by his countrymen