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Passing Fancy (#110 of 1)

Eclipse Series 10: Silent Ozu—Three Family Comedies on Criterion DVD

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Eclipse Series 10: Silent Ozu—Three Family Comedies
Eclipse Series 10: Silent Ozu—Three Family Comedies

Most dedicated film lovers are familiar with the elegiac ’50s family dramas of Yasujirô Ozu, classics like Late Spring (1949) and Tokyo Story (1953). Much as they are cherished and respected, even his most fervent admirers have admitted the sameness of these films, in which a constantly smiling Setsuko Hara beams from her tatami mat and says, “Life is certainly disappointing!” After her pronouncement, Ozu cuts to a boat chugging along a river; he then cuts back to Hara, who has a measured shot/reverse shot conversation with one of her parents. Mom or Dad smiles finally, then reflects, “My dreams of youth are gone!” Then Ozu cuts to laundry flapping in the breeze against a mackerel sky, etc. To paraphrase Virginia Woolf, Ozu prefers to suffer and understand rather than to fight and enjoy. His Zen resignation is like a drug to some, but it must be said that Ozu’s basic attitude can seem complacent, even maddening, especially to American viewers whose birthright has always been the urge to tell someone off, make a change, start again. Of course, this “anything is possible” point of view has led to a lot of pain for most of our ambitious American strivers, so a pinch or more of Ozu’s philosophy can be beneficial to us.