108 years ago today, Yasujiro Ozu was born in the Fukagawa district of Tokyo. Easily my favorite filmmaker of all time, I have seen many of his available movies and am happy that more are being subtitled and released in the West all the time. For a long time Ozu’s films were considered “too Japanese” for Western audiences but in fact, Ozu was a fan of American cinema and it influenced his. I was once asked by a Japanese journalist what appealed to me in Ozu’s films because of their reputation as being too Japanese. I told her that I never found the themes in his films to be too Japanese; that there is a universality to things like family and change. Before this time next year, please see an Ozu film or ten and recommend a friend do the same. Definitely one of the all-time great directors.
1. TOKYO STORY
My favorite Ozu film. Every frame is perfectly composed. If you only see one Ozu film, this should be it.
2. AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON
Ozu, somewhat famous for rejecting technological advances in filmmaking almost completely eliminated camera movement in this, his final, film.
3. THE FLAVOR OF GREEN TEA OVER RICE
Throughout his career, Ozu often broke the 180 degree rule, but never as effectively as he did in this film. Towards the end, in the couples’ kitchen, Ozu breaks the rule so frequently, one feels as if they’re in the kitchen part of the emotional scene.
4. LATE SPRING
Some critics have suggested that this film and not Tokyo Story, is Ozu’s masterpiece.
5. FLOATING WEEDS
Arguably the most melodramatic film of Ozu’s career and one of the best photographed.
6. GOOD MORNING
If you’re not in the mood for drama, this Ozu comedy will bring a smile to your face while still maintaining the high standard of filmmaking.
7. I WAS BORN, BUT…
An early Ozu silent film makes for a great compare-and-contrast exercise with Good Morning.
8. RECORD OF A TENEMENT GENTLEMAN
Ozu’s first film in post WWII Japan.
9. EQUINOX FLOWER
Ozu’s first color film, 7 years after Japan’s first color film.
10. THE MUNEKATA SISTERS
Ozu’s first film with Shin Toho had the largest budget ever for a Japanese movie when it was made, 138,000 US dollars.