Tag Archives: Ozu

Movie Masterclass – Ozu’s ‘Tokyo Story’ at the European Film College

We are pleased to share Mamoun’s masterclass on Ozu’s masterpiece, Tokyo Story. Mamoun has revisited this film several times, but this most recent visit at the European Film College in Ebeltoft allowed him to discuss the film with the students in detail.

 

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Mamoun returns to the European Film College – 23rd and 24th September

Children are watching us

I Bambini Ci Guardano 1944 (The Children are Watching us)

Mamoun is looking forward to his yearly visit to the European Film College to give two masterclasses on De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and  Ozu’s Tokyo Story However there will be a twist. His discussion will also refer to De Sica’s pre-neorealist film The Children are watching Us (1944). He will explore how De Sica’s craft developed but also how certain inspirations persisted.

Under principal Nadia Kloverdahl Reich the College is developing physically and educationally – with a new building and a new faculty amongst many changes. A happy combination of the old and the new. Mamoun looks forward to working with Micah Magee, the new Directing Fiction teacher.

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Passport to Cinema: Ozu’s ‘Late Spring’ afterword

The great Alexander Mackendrick said that drama is about life ‘with the boring bits left out’. Yasujiro Ozu saw it differently. He embraced the ‘boring bits’, the everyday. Ozu weans us, for a while anyway, from the need for action and spectacle. He enhances the ordinary to the level of both entertainment and poetry.

At a superficial level Ozu’s films are not about very much. Many scenes comprise housework (the sequence in TOKYO STORY is simply thrilling), leaving and entering the house, making tea, drinking tea, preparing the bath, sitting quietly, drinking sake (a great deal of that) – and a lot of walking. There are shots of empty rooms and corridors, and abstract exteriors that are often just part of something. For instance, Tokyo in TOKYO STORY is first symbolised by a shot of three industrial chimneys – Tokyo is outside the frame. Ozu invites one to contemplate, think, consider and interpret. It sounds like Art House cinema at its nadir. It is the opposite.

Ozu made more than fifty films and they were regularly in the top five at Japan’s box office. His popularity is puzzling considering that the stories are remarkably similar – but then so are Jane Austen’s, Dostoevsky’s, Chekhov’s. It is almost an aspect of greatness. But one has also to look at the style; Ozu’s is like no other. The narrative is precise and plot is minimal, often perversely so; the mise-en-scène guides us to what is directly important; the editing is spare, creating a sense of real time; characterisation leaves out much, leading us to put in much; performance is almost free of ‘acting’. Ozu pares away everything and what is left is essence and engagement with the audience.

After seeing a couple of Ozu’s films, the rest of cinema and television seems overworked and loud, serving entertainment to a supposedly febrile audience. One goes back to Ozu and the everyday domestic world, where happiness and pain begin for most of us. Despite, or because of, his stylisation, he creates the real world, the inner spiritual world.

Hollywood, Aristotle’s town, admired Ozu but could not follow. For the rest of us Ozu is a miracle.

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An introduction to Ozu’s ‘Late Spring’ at the BFI South Bank, Dec 8th

Late SpringAccording to the lists of 10 and 100 best films the world is a small place consisting primarily of the US and Western Europe. It seems only a small number of films have ever been made as the same ones appear over and over again. Convergence is the first step to entropy. It comes as a surprise to find that Japan exists – thanks to Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and to Ozu whose TOKYO STORY occasionally makes it to the top of the pile. Ozu’s LATE SPRING got to 17 and was called the ‘perfect’ film. It is more important than that.

LATE SPRING is Ozu’s first film with Setsuko Hara as Noriko – and she carries that name, but not the character, in the following two films EARLY SUMMER and TOKYO STORY. The three films are sometimes referred to, somewhat arbitrarily, as the Noriko trilogy.

Ozu is an elusive director. His films appear to be straightforward domestic dramas; the stories are not very different; the characters are played by a repertory of the same actors. In recollection, a scene or a moment from Ozu could come from a number of his films, rather like a Beethoven or Mozart theme when you have to think hard about its context. Soaps work through scattering plotlines outwards; Ozu digs inwards and downwards. LATE SPRING started a process which ended with the sublime AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON.

Mamoun will be introducing LATE SPRING (Banshun) at the BFI South Bank, Screen NFT2, December 8th, 6.10pm.

Mamoun would like to thank Dominic Power, Head of Screen Arts at the National Film and Television School for inviting him to introduce this classic of world cinema.

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Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon, Southbank 23 May

ImageI am presenting Yasujirô Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon on Friday 23rd May at National Film Theatre 3, BFI Southbank, London 2 pm. There will be a Q&A after the screening.

An Autumn Afternoon is Ozu’s last work and one of his few colour films. It is Ozu at his most distilled. All the elements  and style of shooting combine to elicit total attention from us. And he gives us time, through the use of space –  empty corridors, rooms and exteriors –  to consider and reconsider, to think about what we have just seen. When normal service of cinema and television is resumed, you’d  think the world has gone mad, suffering from ADHD or under the influence.

Ozu’s films are not only journeys into his mind but also into our minds.

For more information and to book online visit the BFI website.

 

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