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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