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Eclipse Series 10: Silent Ozu - Three Family Comedies (Tokyo Chorus / I Was Born But... / Passing Fancy) (The Criterion Collection)
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I Was Born But is the funniest of the three, with its Little Rascals like attention to the child's point of view. It opens with a shot of car wheels spinning in mud, since Mr. Yoshii (Tatsuo Saito) has just moved his family from suburban Azabu to Tokyo. As Yoshii slaves to improve his employment status, comedic scenes focus on his two sons, Ryoichi (Hideo Sugawara) and Keiji (Tomio Aoki), who continuously ward off local bullies while trying to please their dad. When the boys ditch class to avoid getting beat up, the younger remembers that he was "supposed to get an E in calligraphy today." Lying in a meadow, he does his lesson and recruits a passerby to forge a good grade on his paper. Later, after classmates swallow raw sparrow eggs to impress each other, the two stars feed their eggs to the family dog, accidentally sickening him. Scenes become funnier as tensions build between the parents and their rebellious sons. It is amazing how much Ozu can achieve with so little dialogue, which crops up sparingly printed on cards. One may wonder if sound these days even improves our film viewing experience. In the least, Silent Ozu recalls quieter times, when perhaps just as much narrative was expressed. --Trinie Dalton
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Ozu began his career as a cameraman, and with hard work and determination he finally ascended the ladder to director. Once his position was earned, Ozu poured his creativity onto film with unmatched diligence, producing nearly half of his 50+ films in the first five years of his career. Sadly, many of these films are now lost, which adds to the enjoyment of these extraordinary, previously unreleased films from Criterion.
As the title suggests, the films in this collection were released during a portion of Ozu's silent career, ranging from 1931-1933. Ozu, along with the majority of the Japanese film industry, was somewhat hesitant about entering into talkies based upon the belief that emotions could be best conveyed with movements, expressions, and atmosphere, not dialogue. Ozu's first talkie was not released until 1936, the same year as Chaplin's final silent masterpiece, Modern Times. This period of his career marked Ozu's transition into social criticism as he both subtly and blatantly expresses his discontent with the culture of pre-WWII Japan.
Tokyo Chorus (1931) - A man is fired from his job for reasons that would normally be viewed as commendable. The film from here follows his social and financial downfall as he does anything he possibly can to support his family.Read more ›
The film tells the story of a family who relocate to suburban Tokyo. The two sons conflict with the local bullies - one of which is their father's boss's son. The boys deal with the local bullies only to 'lose face' over their father acting like a clown. What arises from this becomes a motif for Ozu - the estranged relationship between children and parents. For Ozu this is part of everyday life and is somewhat auto-biographical in thought as his own relationship with his father was also estranged. Further exemplified, is Ozu's motif of spatial violation and parallel action.
Ozu is the anti-thesis of the Hollywood blockbuster and he possesses a narrow choice of camera positions. Nowhere is the expression "less is more" more appropriate than here. While there is a rare use of a tracking shot, Ozu tends to prefer the static camera and usually shoots from the tatami mat. This sense of mimimalism seems entirely appropriate given that the film spends much time observing the boys everyday encounters.
This great filmmaker has a knack for expressing the tender beauty of everyday life and minimal expression. However, the sense of observation one feels is always pervaded with subtle touches of humour and emotional resonance - that it is impossible to become bored with it. I bless my lucky stars for the offerings that Ozu brought to the world of filmmaking.
I also love his simple stories that everyone can relate to, his people are just like our friends, neighbors and families, some of them are sweet, some are stinkers, and many are just doing their best to cope with every day's challenges in life.
But a silent Ozu? I was a little wary, but I did put it on my wishlist, and I'm so glad I did and that one of my sweet relations gave it to me for my birthday, because it is one of Ozu's best! Ozu's films are always full of gentle and sometimes silly fun and this one did not disappoint. The two brothers are real characters and along with the kids they meet up with in their new neighborhood, it really was like watching a Japanese version of the Little Rascals. Did you know eating raw sparrow's eggs will make you strong?
It soon appears that they get their sense of humour from their father, though as usually happens, they are not as appreciative of it in him. And as with all Ozu films, we are left with the feeling that we are all pretty much the same no matter where we come from or even when we lived and we find a good deal of comfort in knowing that as the world changes we can still appreciate the things that never do. You'll hate yourself if you don't see it!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Film = 3-1/2 stars; restoration = barely 1 star. Talkies came late to Japan. Read more
And am anxious to see the rest of Ozu's impressive work. Thought an old, silent, black and white foreign film might be boring but has a more sensitive, touching, treatment of... Read morePublished on July 10, 2013 by cconkling
By 1932 Yasujiro Ozu was becoming a more self assured and confident director. He had already made twenty three films when he embarked on the comedy I Was Born, But.... Read morePublished on July 3, 2012 by Bryan A. Pfleeger
Maybe the most remarkable thing about Yasujiro Ozu is that he directed great movies at every stage of his career, skillfully transitioning from silent films to B&W talkies to... Read morePublished on September 28, 2011 by Little Roy Blue
I have spent too many years not knowing about Ozu and his brilliant films!! That being said, I Was Born But... is one of my all-time favorite films now. Read morePublished on October 17, 2009 by Maire Collins
Of the 3 films in this package, I have only watched 'Tokyo Chorus' so far, but found it highly enjoyable. Read morePublished on January 6, 2009 by The Electric Mule
I wish I had time to write a detailed review. I have yet to see an Ozu film that wasn't first-rate. If you haven't seen any of his movies maybe you should start with one of his... Read morePublished on January 5, 2009 by C. Hartel
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... Read morePublished on September 28, 2008 by Roy Clark
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