A delightful glimpse into silent Japan
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 05/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After receiving high acclaim for his special cinematic style in directing movies of the `40s and `50s, it's about time the world saw some of Yasujiro Ozu's earlier work in the silent medium, and this excellent set of three films from the early 1930s balances the scales nicely. Best remembered for his realistic portrayals of family life in medium-class Japan, Ozu obviously developed his remarkable insight into human nature and relationships already in the 1920s, as these three family comedies clearly show. Although very similar to his well-known films of later decades, these silent films have a subtle touch of comedy to spice things up and - in my opinion - make them even more entertaining than his later sound films. Watching Ozu's films in general feels like stepping into the lives of real people with all their thoughts, feelings and problems as if you are right there among them. Attention to details, natural acting and a tendency to linger on what seems like mundane daily actions all add to this overall impression of being involved in the film, not just being a distant observer. This skill was already honed to perfection by the time Ozu directed these three charming family stories in the early 1930s when the rest of the world was embracing sound films, yet Ozu, it seems, wanted to perfect and continue the beautiful and artistic silent film medium for as long as possible. He directed his first sound film in 1936, beginning a series of more sombre, even somewhat depressing family dramas, making this set of comedies a pleasant and refreshing new look at Ozu's work. Keeping to the formula he knew best, Ozu's three family comedies include young children, and the focus is on how everyone interacts with one another in the family circle as well as at work and in other surroundings. "Tokyo Chorus" follows the ups and downs in the life of an average working man who becomes unemployed and struggles to keep his wife and children happy, but these real-life problems are tempered with moments of sweet, almost childlike humour, quite different from the often coarse comedy seen in the West. For me, the most entertaining of the three is "Passing Fancy", which focuses on the relationship between a father and son living in poor conditions but helped along by neighbours and friends as the bungling father tries to sort out his life. Children are the stars in the third film, "I was Born, But..." where two young brothers learn to deal with moving to a new neighbourhood and the new kids on the block, but fathers once again play a key role in the family interactions. The natural acting by both adults and children impressed me the most in these films, along with Ozu's apparent easy and casual approach of glimpsing into family life with understanding, compassion and a little bit of wicked humour. While the picture quality of "Tokyo Chorus" is not quite up to the same high standard as the others, it is still enjoyable to watch, especially with the optional piano musical score by Donald Sosin, who does a fine job adding the right ambience to each scene. The DVDs have their individual slim cases with good notes inside which help shed some more light on this overlooked early part of Ozu's impressive career. For Ozu and silent film collectors alike, this is a special and unique addition not to be missed!
MOVIES THAT SHOW AMERICAN AND JAPAN ARE ALIKE IN ALOTA WAYS
Roy Clark | Edge of Toiyabe Nat'l Forest, NV | 09/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Everything everybody here has said about these superb silent movies is true. Beyond that, these fine films show that silent Japanese films were every bit as good as our American movies then, and that the values, natures and problems in Japan and America then were pretty much the same. (Of course I've haven't yet run into a Chaplain, Keaton or Laurel and Hardy in Japanese silent films. But Oza certainly measures up to our best directors, then and now.)
I expect our societies and arts today are very parallel
too. People is people, times are times. Zen-sekai no.""