Yasujiro Ozu

From Academic Kids

Yasujiro Ozu (小津 安二郎 Ozu Yasujirō December 12, 1903 - December 12, 1963) was an influential Japanese film director.



He was born in Fukagawa, Tokyo, and educated at a boarding school in Matsuzaka. He worked briefly as a teacher before returning to Tokyo in 1923 to join the Shochiku Film Company. Initially a cameraman, he worked as an assistant director within three years and directed his first film, The Sword of Penitence (Zange no Yaiba), in 1927. He went on to make a further 53 films – 26 in his first five years as a director, and all but 3 for Shochiku. Even though marriage was a favorite theme of his, Ozu remained single all his life.

In July 1937, at a time when Shochiku was unhappy about Ozu's lack of box-office success, despite the praise (and awards) he had received from critics, the 34-year-old director was called up, and he served for two years in China as an infantry corporal. The first film Ozu made on his return was the critically and commercially successful Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (Toda-ke no Kyodai, 1941). In 1943 Ozu was again drafted into the army to make a propaganda film in Burma. However, he was sent to Singapore instead, where he spent much of his time watching American films that the Japanese army had confiscated. According to Donald Richie, Ozu's favorite was Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.

Ozu had started out making distinctive comedies before moving onto more socially aware works in the 1930s, concentrating on family dramas. He often worked with screenwriter Kogo Noda; other regular collaborators included cameraman Yuharu Atsuta and the actors Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara. His films were most favourably received from the late 1940s with works such as Late Spring (Banshun, 1949), Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari, 1953), considered to be his masterpiece, The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (Ochazuke no Aji, 1952), Early Spring (Soshun, 1956), Floating Weeds (Ukigusa, 1959) and Late Autumn (Akibiyori, 1960). His last film was An Autumn Afternoon (Sanma no aji, 1962). He died of cancer on his 60th birthday and is buried in the grounds of Engaku-ji temple, Kamakura.

As a director he was eccentric and a notorious perfectionist. He was seen as one of the 'most Japanese' film-makers, and as such his work was only rarely shown overseas before the 1960s. He took a long time to turn to sound – his first talkie was The Only Son (1936) – and did not film in colour until Equinox Flower (Higanbana) in 1958. His trademark shot was one taken from a low height, with the cameraman either sitting or prone. He was also strongly in favour of a static camera and meticulously-arranged compositions where no single actor would dominate a scene.

Select filmography


In 2003, the centenary of Yasujiro Ozu's birth was commemorated at various film festivals around the world. Shochiku produced the film Caf Lumire (珈琲時光), directed by Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien as homage to Ozu, with direct reference to the late master's Tokyo Story (1953), to premiere on Ozu's birthday.

John Walker, editor of the Halliwell's Film Guides, placed Tokyo Story top in a list of the best 1000 films yet made.

Further reading

External links

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