PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

'The Ozu Collection: The Student Comedies' Makes Us Nostalgic of Modernity

Still from I Flunked, But… (1930)

In this specific 2-disk DVD set, the BFI has compiled four rare films by Yasujiro Ozu plus a surviving fragment. The films belong to the genre of ‘The Student Comedies’, a genre which Ozu picked up from imported American films.


Where Now are the Dreams of Youth? (Seishun No Yume Ima Izuko)

Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Distributor: BFI (UK)
UK Release date: 2012-02-20

There are certain DVD publishers whose work does not simply fulfill our desire for entertainment, but satisfy our desire for education and for learning from the great auteurs of the past, whose work is rarely shown on television and is very hard to access outside the small festival circle. Among these publishers is BFI, which is about to publish all the 32 surviving films of one of the greatest poets of cinema, that is, the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.

In this specific 2-disk DVD set, the BFI has compiled four rare films by Ozu, plus a surviving fragment. The films belong to the genre of ‘The Student Comedies’, a genre which Ozu picked up from imported American films. David Bordwell observes that Ozu was very much influenced by the films of Charlie Chaplin, ‘the comedies of Ernst Lubitsch and the gag comedies of Harold Lloyd’.

As Tony Rayns explains in the very informative booklet that accompanies the DVD-set, Ozu’s references to the American cinema of the '20s reflects the impact that Hollywood movies had on Japan’s early Showa period (during the time that Emperor Hirohito ascended to power). In Rayans’ words, the characters in these student comedies ‘embody the hunger for Western ideas and lifestyles that gripped much of Japan’s urban population’. This is the main reason why the portrayal of students as carefree, sexually liberated and alcohol-consuming is more in line with Western, rather than Japanese, characters.

The first film, Days of Youth (1929), tells the story of two students, Watanabe and Yamamoto as they compete for the same woman, Chieko. The characters are very much influenced by the vaudeville comedies and they are defined by certain formulaic characteristics which define them throughout. Watanabe is a very confident young man, while his friend is very shy and diligent student. After finishing with their University exams, they follow Chieko to a holiday resort and a series of tragicomic gags are in order.

The second film, I Flunked, But… (1930) tells the story of Takahashi and his flatmates. Having failed the final exams, Takahashi has to repeat the final year at University, while his friend who recently graduated come to realise that a degree does not necessarily guarantee them a job in the recession ravaged economy.

The Lady and the Beard (1931) is the story of Kiichi, a University Kendo champion whose old-fashioned appearance, that is, his bushy beard along with his love for martial arts make him a comic anachronism in the modernised Japan. Kiichi will listen to the advice of a girl and he will engage himself in a process of self-transformation.

Where Now are the dreams of Youth? (1931) combines elements of tragedy and comedy and tells the story of Horino who takes sits an exams with his friends when he learns that his father has died. Being from a wealthy background, Horino will inherit his father’s property and business and will enter the professional world with minimum effort as opposed to his former pals, who are forced to come to ask him for work. The film brilliantly draws to our attention class issues and the ways that class divisions affect human relationships and social prestige.

Using minimal camera movements, Ozu’s camera draws equal attention to the dramatic action enacted by the characters and the environment they are placed in equally balancing social awareness and a self-reflexive poetic modernist style. What is the most impressive aspect of all these films is this modernist utopian feeling that society is changeable. Thus, despite all the bitterness that permeates them, one senses the director’s fascination with the new cinematic technology and its ability to capture and deconstruct aspects of social life which are considered to be self-evident. Despite the fact that each film has a concrete story-line, the director’s modus operandi allows a certain degree of poetic formal abstraction to enter the mise-en-scène. Then again, it's this abstraction, this refusal to subordinate all the parts to the whole, which brings to the fore the comic aspects of the socially ‘obvious’.

The films are accompanied by newly commissioned scores by Ed Hughes, who keeps up with the films’ formal combination of dramaturgy and poetic abstraction. Hughes’s work does not intend to force feeling on the images we see, but reinforces the director’s modernism allowing the spectator to become co-producer in the narrative and not simply a consumer. All in all, this is a brilliant collection by the BFI which includes a 20 minutes documentary where Tony Rayns discusses Ozu’s influence in the world cinema. Included in the box-set is a 38 pages illustrated booklet with essays on Ozu by Asian cinema experts. It's certainly a must have box-set for libraries and the educational institutions.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.