Close Up

1 - 13 January 2019: Close-Up on Yasujirō Ozu


"Often considered the “most Japanese” of all Japanese directors, Ozu was proclaimed “one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century in any medium and in any country” by the British Film Institute. The director’s reputation as a “transcendental” minimalist rests largely on his later films, but, in fact, his entire oeuvre is much richer and more complex. […] Collectively, the films form a Balzacian human comedy, full of the tragedies of ordinary life rendered, by turns, with exquisite formal precision and emotional nuance. Less a story teller than a lyrical portraitist, Ozu calibrates the distance between tradition and modernity, between parents and their children, between and youth and age, and – ultimately – between cinema and life." – Harvard Film Archive

I Was Born, But...
Yasujirō Ozu, 1932, 100 min
Silent with a recorded score by Donald Sosin

One of Ozu's most popular films, I Was Born, But… is a blithe portrait of the financial and psychological toils of one family, as told from the rascally point of view of a couple of stubborn little boys. For two brothers, the daily struggles of bullies and mean teachers is nothing next to the mortification they feel when they realize their good-natured father’s low-rung social status. Reworked decades later as Ozu's Technicolor comedy Good Morning, it's a poignant evocation of the tumult of childhood, as well as a showcase for Ozu's expertly timed comedy editing. read more

Late Spring
Yasujirō Ozu, 1949, 108 min
Japanese with English subtitles

One of the most powerful of Yasujiro Ozu’s family portraits, Late Spring tells the story of a widowed father who feels compelled to marry off his beloved only daughter. Eminent Ozu players Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara command this poignant tale of love and loss in postwar Japan, which remains as potent today as ever – and a strong justification for its maker’s inclusion in the pantheon of cinema’s greatest directors. read more

Early Summer
Yasujirō Ozu, 1951, 135 min
Japanese with English subtitles

The Mamiya family is seeking a husband for their daughter, Noriko, but she has ideas of her own. Played by the extraordinary Setsuko Hara, Noriko impulsively chooses her childhood friend, at once fulfilling her family's desires while tearing them apart. A seemingly simple story, Early Summer is one of Yasujirō Ozu's most complex works – a nuanced examination of life's changes across three generations. read more

Tokyo Story
Yasujirō Ozu, 1953, 136 min
Japanese with English subtitles

A profoundly stirring evocation of elemental humanity and universal heartbreak, Tokyo Story is the crowning achievement of the unparalleled Yasujirō Ozu. The film, which follows an aging couple’s journey to visit their grown children in bustling postwar Tokyo, surveys the rich and complex world of family life with the director’s customary delicacy and incisive perspective on social mores. Featuring lovely performances from Ozu regulars Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, Tokyo Story plumbs and deepens the director’s recurring theme of generational conflict, creating what is without question one of cinema’s mightiest masterpieces. read more

Tokyo Twilight
Yasujirō Ozu, 1957, 141 min
Japanese with English subtitles

Some of Ozu’s most striking compositions grace Tokyo Twilight, whose dusky title suggests sadness, transience, ambiguity – appropriate for this tale of a family’s downfall. One of Ozu's most piercing portraits of family strife, Tokyo Twilight follows the parallel paths of two sisters contending with an absent mother, unwanted pregnancy, and marital discord. read more

Equinox Flower
Yasujirō Ozu, 1958, 120 min
Japanese with English subtitles

Later in his career, Ozu started becoming increasingly sympathetic with the younger generation, a shift that was cemented in Equinox Flower, his gorgeously detailed first colour film, about an old-fashioned father and his new-fangled daughter. read more

Floating Weeds
Yasujirō Ozu, 1959, 119 min
Japanese with English subtitles

In 1959, Yasujirō Ozu remade his 1934 silent classic A Story of Floating Weeds in colour with the celebrated cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Ugetsu). Setting his later version in a seaside location, Ozu otherwise preserves the details of his elegantly simple plot wherein an aging actor returns to a small town with his troupe and reunites with his former lover and illegitimate son, a scenario that enrages his current mistress and results in heartbreak for all. read more

Good Morning
Yasujirō Ozu, 1959, 93 min
Japanese with English subtitles

A light-hearted take on director Yasujiro Ozu’s perennial theme of the challenges of inter­generational relationships, Good Morning tells the story of two young boys who stop speaking in protest after their parents refuse to buy a television set. Ozu weaves a wealth of subtle gags through a family portrait as rich as those of his dramatic films, mocking the foibles of the adult world through the eyes of his child protagonists. Shot in stunning colour and set in a suburb of Tokyo, this charming comedy refashions Ozu’s own silent classic I Was Born, But… to gently satirise consumerism in post-war Japan. read more

Late Autumn
Yasujirō Ozu, 1960, 127 min
Japanese with English subtitles

As the title suggests, Late Autumn is tinged with a sense of the inevitable end of things – especially happiness. The great actress and Ozu regular Setsuko Hara plays a mother gently trying to persuade her daughter to marry in this glowing portrait of family love and conflict – a reworking of Ozu's 1949 masterpiece Late Spring. read more

An Autumn Afternoon
Yasujirō Ozu, 1962, 112 min
Japanese with English subtitles

The last film by Yasujiro Ozu was also his final masterpiece, a gently heart-breaking story about a man’s dignified resignation to life’s shifting currents and society’s modernisation. Though the widower Shuhei (Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure from their home. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master’s films, An Autumn Afternoon is one of cinema’s fondest farewells. read more

Wim Wenders, 1985, 92 min

Wim Wenders travels to Tokyo to pay homage to Ozu, whose films he considers “sacred treasures.” His impressions of the country formed entirely by the cinema, Wenders interviews Ozu's collaborators while the symbols of the new Japan – all-night pachinko parlours, golf ranges atop downtown skyscrapers, rockabilly teenagers – conspire to shatter his illusions. read more

Taipei Story
Edward Yang, 1985, 110 min
Mandarin & Hokkien with English subtitles

Edward Yang’s second feature is a mournful anatomy of a city caught between the past and the present. Made in collaboration with Yang’s fellow New Taiwan Cinema master Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taipei Story chronicles the growing estrangement between a washed-up baseball player (Hou, in a rare on-screen performance) working in his family’s textile business and his girlfriend (Tsai Chin), who clings to the upward mobility of her career in property development. As the couple’s dreams of marriage and emigration begin to unravel, Yang’s gaze illuminates the precariousness of domestic life and the desperation of Taiwan’s globalised modernity. read more