About us
Croatian film

Portrait: Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu

The essay is concentrated on an analysis of some prominent features of the Yasujiro Ozu’s cinematic style.

The first monographer of Yasujiro Ozu in the West, Donald Richie, characterized Ozu’s camera as »Leonardo’s mirror of the East«. There is actually something of the Renaissance »scientifically«, methodological exactness about Ozu’s films — he presents common and recurrent subjects of family life, he almost repeats the same shots, the same clusters of shots, the same static compositions of the shots, the same minimal expressions and gestures of his characters etc., so that his individual films apparently merge into one big common film — but, by the same token, there is something enigmatic, elusive in the apparent simplicity of Ozu’s world.

The main principle of Ozu’s style seems to be: to present as little as possible, as unemphasized as possible but in order to sensitize the viewer for the undercurrents. »I want to portray the human character by eliminating all the dramatic devices«, said Ozu, »I want people to feel what the life is like without presentation of the dramatic hights and falls«. But, what characterizes Ozu’s films is that this »dramatic highs and falls« are actually present but they are mostly hidden, just gently indicated. In most cases Ozu uses indirect manner of presenting the hightened reaction of his characters: instead of showing the expression of the character’s strong reaction Ozu will dismiss the character from the scene and leave the viewer either with the event that motivated the character’s reaction, or with the empty spaces.

In consequence, Ozu’s film ending are not dramatic at all, but, through his »indirect« manner of indication, they are very suggestive, metaphorical, multi-dimensional, like the Orson Welle’s ending in Citizen Kane, the film Ozu appreciated a lot. Though Paul Schraders connected the Ozu’s world view with the Japan Zen culture and philosophy, and it was highly convincing, there is no need to know the Japan tradition well in order to empathize with Ozu’s protagonists, to share their quiet, self-denying sadness. Ozu — »the most Japanese among all Japan directors« — is as close — and as elusive — for us, the Western viewers, as, e. g. Ford, Welles or Rossellini.

Živorad Tomić

Yasujiro Ozu’s family album

View other articles in this edition...


new edition

Web Statistics