Director Series: François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard’s Une histoire d’eau (1958)

Boat

“It was obvious, once the film was finished, that it wasn’t his or mine and that it would be logical for both to sign and to make a present of it to the producer who never made a fortune out of it.” — François Truffaut

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Director Series: François Truffaut’s Les Mistons (1957)

Chalk

“It was really and truly while filming Les Mistons that I came to realize that there were things I liked and things I didn’t and that the choice of story for a film is more important than one thinks and that you cannot simply jump into things.” — François Truffaut

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Director Series: François Truffaut

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Ages and ages ago, as recorded in my very first post on this blog, I decided to view and write about all of Yasujirô Ozu’s extant films in chronological order. For one reason or another, I never made it very far, only managing to get through Days of Youth, Fighting Friends — Japanese Style and I Graduated, But… before abandoning — or simply forgetting about — the project. At some point, I hope to pick up where I left off, though I’ll probably wait until the Criterion Channel launches in April, which should (fingers crossed) give me access to the bulk of his work. (Side note: Is there any legal way to watch The Munekata Sisters, preferably with English subtitles? It’s the only one I still haven’t seen. Anyway…)

For the time being, however, I’d like to attempt the same project with the films of François Truffaut. I’ve already written about quite a few of them here, but I hope to avoid retreading too much old ground; I think that the chronological format will help foster new insights, and these posts will probably be a bit more informal in style than the others, though we’ll see how things develop. The plan at this point is to publish one write-up per month, starting later this month.

Director Series: Yasujirô Ozu’s I Graduated, But… (1929)

Nomoto

I Graduated, But… was the fourth of six Yasujirô Ozu-directed films released in 1929, and like two others — namely Fighting Friends — Japanese Style and A Straightforward Boy — it only exists in abridged form. Even with an explanatory note at the beginning, it clocks in at under twelve minutes, about a single reel’s worth of film; according to David Bordwell in Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema, it originally ran seven. It’s not much of a movie as it stands, but it still has several points of interest.

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Director Series: Yasujirô Ozu’s Fighting Friends — Japanese Style (1929)

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As noted in the previous post in this series, many of Yasujirô Ozu’s early films are now considered lost, while others exist only in incomplete form. One film that falls into the latter category is 1929’s Fighting Friends — Japanese Style. According to Ozu, his frequent screenwriting partner Kogo Noda “thought up this story, about two men who fall in love with the same woman. It was such old hat we had to package it by adding ‘Japanese Style’ to the title.” Fighting Friends reportedly ran for either seven reels (per David Bordwell in Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema) or about one hundred minutes (per Donald Richie in Ozu), but only an abridged fourteen-minute version is known to exist at present.

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Director Series: Yasujirô Ozu’s Days of Youth (1929)

As I mentioned in the first post in this series, I didn’t really delve into Ozu’s silents until I had seen the vast majority of his sound films, despite the fact that I Was Born, But… was actually the first of his movies that I watched. I suspect that this is the case for a lot of Ozu fans; titles like Late Spring, Early Summer, Tokyo Story and Floating Weeds are far better known than, say, Walk Cheerfully or That Night’s Wife. In fact, much of his pre-World War II work, silent and sound alike, remains relatively obscure. Nick Wrigley summarized this divide in the May 2003 issue of Senses of Cinema:

Ozu’s career falls loosely into two halves, divided by the Second World War. His breezier early works are unafraid to acknowledge the influence of Hollywood melodramas or to flirt with farce. Such films contrast greatly with his later masterpieces, which portray a uniquely contemplative style so rigorously simplistic that it renounces almost all known film grammar.

In other words, if you expect a “typical” Ozu film — a film in his distinctive style — his early work might come as a surprise. Personally, I prefer his post-war period, but I’ve found a great deal to enjoy in his silents and early sound films. By starting at the beginning of his filmography (or rather, his existing filmography) and going through it in order, I hope to see step-by-step how that Ozu style came to be.

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Director Series: Yasujirô Ozu

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Yasujirô Ozu, early 1950s (via Wikimedia Commons)

Ozu is not only a great director but a great teacher, and after you know his films, a friend. — Roger Ebert

I came to love Yasujirô Ozu almost by accident. About three years ago, I watched I Was Born, But… on either TCM or the Criterion Collection’s Hulu channel. At the time, the only Japanese director I knew by name was Akira Kurosawa, and though I could name several of his films, I had yet to see any of them. Maybe I watched I Was Born, But… for the sake of novelty, or maybe it was the title that caught my attention (that was the case with Crazed Fruit, which I had watched a few months earlier and which may have been my first Japanese movie), but I found it unique, charming and, best of all, funny.

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