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Thursday Nights at the Cinematheque Fall Calendar

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Yasujiro Ozu Yasujiro Ozu has often been called the “most Japanese” of Japan’s great directors. From 1927, the year of his debut for Shochiku studios, to 1962, when, a year before his death at age sixty, he made his final film, Ozu consistently explored the rhythms and tensions of a country trying to reconcile modern and traditional values, especially as played out in relations between the generations. Though he is best known for his sobering 1953 masterpiece Tokyo Story, the apex of his portrayals of the changing Japanese family, Ozu began his career in the thirties, in a more comedic, though still socially astute, mode, with such films as I Was Born, But . . . and Dragnet Girl. He then gradually mastered the domestic drama during the war years and afterward, employing both physical humor, as in Good Morning, and distilled drama, as in Late Spring, Early Summer, and Floating Weeds. Though Ozu was discovered relatively late in the Western world, his trademark rigorous style—static shots, often from the vantage point of someone sitting low on a tatami mat; patient pacing; moments of transcendence as represented by the isolated beauty of everyday objects—has been enormously influential among directors seeking a cinema of economy and poetry.

The Criterion Collection

Charlie Chaplin with movie camera.  Announcement that screenings are open to the public and that admission is free.

 shot from the movieThurs, January 22 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Tokyo Chorus (1931), 90 mins.

Combining three prevalent genres of the day—the student comedy, the salaryman film, and the domestic drama—Ozu created this warmhearted family comedy, and demonstrated that he was truly coming into his own as a cinema craftsman. The setup is simple: Low wage–earning dad Okajima is depending on his bonus, and so are his wife and children, yet payday doesn’t exactly go as planned. Exquisite and economical, Ozu’s film alternates between brilliantly mounted comic sequences and heartrending working-class realities.

shot from the movie

Thurs, January 29 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

I Was Born, But… (1932), 100 mins.

One of Ozu’s most popular films, I Was Born, But . . . is a blithe portrait of the financial and psychological toils of one family, as told from the rascally point of view of a couple of stubborn little boys. For two brothers, the daily struggles of bullies and mean teachers is nothing next to the mortification they feel when they realize their good-natured father’s low-rung social status. Reworked decades later as Ozu’s Technicolor comedy Good Morning, it’s a poignant evocation of the tumult of childhood, as well as a showcase for Ozu’s expertly timed comedy editing.


 shot from movieThurs, February 5 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Passing Fancy (1933), 101 mins.

The first of many films featuring the endearing single-dad Kihachi (played wonderfully by Takeshi Sakamoto), Passing Fancy is a humorous and heartfelt study of a close, if fraught, father-son relationship. With an ever more sophisticated visual style and understanding of fragile human relationships, Ozu seamlessly weaves rib-tickling comedy and weighty family drama for this distinguished precursor to a brilliant career. 

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Woman of Tokyo (1933), 47 mins.

To put her brother Ryo through college, Chikako works as a diligent typist by day, and moonlights as a scholar's translator - or so she has Ryo believe. However, her chaste reputation is put into question when a police investigation suggests that she might lead a double life, both as an office worker, and a cabaret hostess. When Ryo's girlfriend Harue discloses the findings of her policeman brother Kinoshita, a violent confrontation ensues, leading to Ryo's suicide.


shot from movie

Thurs, February 12 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Dragnet Girl (1933), 100 mins.

Tokiko leads a double-life as an office typist and the mistress of a retired champion boxer and small-time ringleader named Jyoji. Hiroshi, a new recruit to the gang, hero worships Jyoji and neglects his studies. Hiroshi's sister Kazuko begs Jyoji to spare her brother from their shady dealings, but inadvertently casts a spell on Jyoji. After several reversals, Jyoji returns to Tokiko's arms. They decide to come clean, but not before pulling one last job to help Hiroshi and Kazuko.


woman pouring a man a drinkA Story of Floating Weeds 
(1934), 86 mins.

In 1959, Yasujiro Ozu remade his 1934 silent classic A Story of Floating Weeds in color with the celebrated cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Ugetsu). Setting his later version in a seaside location, Ozu otherwise preserves the details of his elegantly simple plot wherein an aging actor returns to a small town with his troupe and reunities with his former lover and illegitimate son, a scenario that enrages his current mistress and results in heartbreak for all. Together, the films offer a unique glimpse into the evolution of one of cinema’s greatest directors. A Story of Floating Weeds reveals Ozu in the midst of developing his mode of expression; Floating Weeds reveals his distinct style at its pinnacle. In each, the director captures the joy and sadness in everyday life. 

shot from movie

Thurs, February 19 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

The Only Son (1936), 82 mins.

Yasujiro Ozu’s first talkie, the uncommonly poignant The Only Son is among the Japanese director’s greatest works. In its simple story about a good-natured mother who gives up everything to ensure her son’s education and future, Ozu touches on universal themes of sacrifice, family, love, and disappointment. Spanning many years, The Only Son is a family portrait in miniature, shot and edited with its maker’s customary exquisite control.

Shot from film-father kneeling in front of his son

There Was a Father (1942), 87 mins.

Yasujiro Ozu’s frequent leading man Chishu Ryu is riveting as Shuhei, a widowed high school teacher who finds that the more he tries to do what is best for his son’s future, the more they are separated.

 


shot from movieThurs, February 26 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Late Spring (1949), 108 mins.

One of the most powerful of Yasujiro Ozu’s family portraits, Late Spring (Banshun) tells the story of a widowed father who feels compelled to marry off his beloved only daughter. Eminent Ozu players Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara command this poignant tale of love and loss in postwar Japan, which remains as potent today as ever—and a strong justification for its maker’s inclusion in the pantheon of cinema’s greatest directors.

shot from movie

A Hen in the Wind (1948), 84 mins.

With her husband away at the frontline battlefields dressmaker Tokiko (Kinuyo Tanaka) supports herself and young son, Hiroshi, as best she can. Opportunistic vendors inflate the cost of scarce goods making existence extremely difficult. To survive an emergency when Hiroshi becomes ill, Tokiko is forced into prostitution one night, in the local brothel, to pay for his required healthcare. Upon her husbands return home, she confesses the unfortunate truth, unaware that making him cognoscent of her independent act, brought on by desperation, may be savagely misconstrued. She is unprepared for the extent of his outburst.

shot from movie


Thurs, March 5 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Early Summer (1951), 125 mins

The Mamiya family is seeking a husband for their daughter, Noriko, but she has ideas of her own. Played by the extraordinary Setsuko Hara, Noriko impulsively chooses her childhood friend, at once fulfilling her family’s desires while tearing them apart. A seemingly simple story, Early Summer is one of Yasujiro Ozu’s most complex works—a nuanced examination of life’s changes across three generations. The Criterion Collection is proud to present one of the director’s most enduring classics.


shot from movieThurs, March 12 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Tokyo Story (1953), 137 mins.

A profoundly stirring evocation of elemental humanity and universal heartbreak,Tokyo Story is the crowning achievement of the unparalleled Yasujiro Ozu. The film, which follows an aging couple’s journey to visit their grown children in bustling postwar Tokyo, surveys the rich and complex world of family life with the director’s customary delicacy and incisive perspective on social mores. Featuring lovely performances from Ozu regulars Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, Tokyo Story plumbs and deepens the director’s recurring theme of generational conflict, creating what is without question one of cinema’s mightiest masterpieces.

shot from movieThurs, March 19 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Early Spring (1956), 145 mins

In his first film after the commercial and critical success of Tokyo Story, Ozu examines life in postwar Japan through the eyes of a young salaryman, dissatisfied with career and marriage, who begins an affair with a flirtatious co-worker.

shot from movieThurs, March 26 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Tokyo Twilight (1957), 141 mins.

One of Ozu’s most piercing portraits of family strife, Tokyo Twilight follows the parallel paths of two sisters contending with an absent mother, unwanted pregnancy, and marital discord.


shot from movieThurs, April 2 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Equinox Flower (1958), 118 mins.

Later in his career, Ozu started becoming increasingly sympathetic with the younger generation, a shift that was cemented in Equinox Flower, his gorgeously detailed first color film, about an old-fashioned father and his newfangled daughter.

shot from movie
Thurs, April 16 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Floating Weeds (1959), 119 mins.

In 1959, Yasujiro Ozu remade his 1934 silent classic A Story of Floating Weeds in color with the celebrated cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Ugetsu). Setting his later version in a seaside location, Ozu otherwise preserves the details of his elegantly simple plot wherein an aging actor returns to a small town with his troupe and reunities with his former lover and illegitimate son, a scenario that enrages his current mistress and results in heartbreak for all. Together, the films offer a unique glimpse into the evolution of one of cinema’s greatest directors. A Story of Floating Weeds reveals Ozu in the midst of developing his mode of expression; Floating Weeds reveals his distinct style at its pinnacle. In each, the director captures the joy and sadness in everyday life.

shot from movie
Thurs, April 23 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

Late Autumn (1960), 128 mins.

The great actress and Ozu regular Setsuko Hara plays a mother gently trying to persuade her daughter to marry in this glowing portrait of family love and conflict—a reworking of Ozu’s 1949 masterpiece Late Spring.

shot from movie
Thurs, April 30 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

The End of Summer (1961), 103 mins.

The Kohayakawa family is thrown into distress when childlike father Manbei takes up with his old mistress, in one of Ozu’s most deftly modulated blendings of comedy and tragedy.

shot from movieGood Morning (1959), 93 mins.

Ozu’s hilarious Technicolor reworking of his silent I Was Born, But . . . , Good Morning (Ohayô) is the story of two young boys in suburban Tokyo who take a vow of silence after their parents refuse to buy them a television set. Shot from the perspective of the petulant brothers, Good Morning is an enchantingly satirical portrait of family life that gives rise to gags about romance, gossip, and the consumerism of modern Japan.


shot from movieThurs, May 7 -- 7 PM

YASUJIRO OZU RETROSPECTIVE

An Autumn Afternoon (1962), 113 mins.

The last film by Yasujiro Ozu was also his final masterpiece, a gently heartbreaking story about a man’s dignified resignation to life’s shifting currents and society’s modernization. Though the widower Shuhei (frequent Ozu leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure from their home. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master’s films, An Autumn Afternoon is one of cinema’s fondest farewells.