Bakushû (1951)

3 08 2011

I’m violating my self-imposed rules of not talking about rewatches, but I never had a post written about this film before and I feel like my feelings about it are a bit more assured now that I’ve seen it again in a better situation. My first viewing was in the middle of a storm of Ozu watching. In retrospect, I feel that kind of tainted my appreciation of this one because it was being sandwiched in between his other movies at a rate that isn’t fair to any director, not even my personal favorite. With that, and the fact that the BFI blu-ray/DVD combo package had been collecting dusts for months now, I decided to revisit this one with a clear mind. I’m glad I did as it reinforces everything I believe about Ozu, that he had a knack for not only exposing the human condition, but the intricate subtleties of human interaction.

The story here is not entirely important, because there is very little of one. A family is trying to marry off their daughter. It’s pretty textbook Ozu, but it’s not really a problem. It’s not a criticism of him in any fashion, but I can see how it may become somewhat tiresome when his films overlap so much. This might have contributed to my reasons for rewatching and rewriting a review as well. As great as Ozu is, it’s not entirely difficult to confuse moments from one of his films with a different movie. It’s worth mentioning, though, that this film in particular its own signature moments. For example, the bratty child (sound familiar Ozu fans?) kicking a loaf of bread around in anger, the conversation Noriko and Aya have with their married peers, as well as the conversation they have entirely in a farmer’s dialect.

For someone whose films are suppose to be about what is being built up to, Ozu has always managed to capture truly impressive and distinct, yet fleeting moments of humor. For some, it might be too good-nature and “nice” but his films are ones that always avoid the trapping of trying to do too much emotionally. Yet it might come as a surprise that his films tend to be more moving than Big Important Art Filmswith “deep” messages.

I didn’t intend for this review to be a case study in Ozu’s superiority over other art filmmakers as that would be both unreadable and useless. Instead, it’s just the experience of revisiting him that has struck me, and rather bluntly I might add. It’s the sort of thing that I think has gotten lost in the past few years of my film-viewing as I’ve tried to make my interest more academic, with the hope of a chance at making a career out of writing. I don’t want to get too introspective, but it’s seeing a movie like this one that kind of puts me back in my place and makes me realize that films, ney all art will never truly be academic, at least not in a certain sense. The experience of Ozu is something that, when putting into words, seems like a backwards exercise. It would take longer to explain his brilliance than it would to just experience it. I’ve been trying for at least five years to find a way to describe these experiences and I feel none the wiser.

Okay, that’s a lot of rhetoric to digest and honestly, it even irks me just looking at it but it is the realization I came to when watching Early Summer for a third time. There is a beautiful depth to Ozu’s work that makes it not only ask for repeated viewings, but instead thrives off of them. The more you watch one of his films, the more there is to discover. Proclaiming Ozu as “subtle” and “nuanced” is an old-hat and probably downplays his other virtues, such as the cinematography, which always astonishes me and the music, which should be hokey, but somehow works as a wistful undercurrent to the pillow-shots. On the other hand, there really is so much to chew on here that it can’t be tackled in one viewing. Before I get anymore mushy about Ozu I’ll leave it at this: the film’s final shot is one of the finest of all-time and a perfect conclusion to this funny-sad masterpiece.

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One response

4 08 2011
bmac

Glad I’m not the only one that finds it an almost futile exercise to attempt to describe the experience of watching Ozu. In fact I don’t even really want to try anymore, lest I boil the amazing feeling I get down to a bunch of sickly analogies and thesaurus-ripped adjectives.

Also kinda love that Chisu Ryu plays Hara’s brother here sandwiched between two paternal roles.

This one is really a showcase for his mastery of deep focus too. That stood out for me more here than in some of his other films for some reason.

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