Biography of Ozu Yasujiro (1903-1963)

Director of Japanese cinema, born in Tokyo on December 12, 1903 and died in Kamakura in 1963.


During his adolescence, he/she attended the liceo Uji-Yamada in Matsuzaka, where he/she graduated in 1921. He/She worked as a teacher during the following two years. His uncle enters the world of the cinema. Thanks to this family influence begins to work as a camera Assistant in the company Shochiku, one of the most important producers of the time. In 1923 he/she was assistant director. Shortly after, he/she directed his first film, sword of repentance (1927), whose filming ended the realizer Torajiro Saito. By this time, the evolution of the filmmaker was consistent, although, before the arrival of the sound, it showed its traditionalism, as Ozu is not welcomed in the cinema sound. Its predominant attention to subsequent movie appearances coincides with this fervent initial defense of the silent film. Before intense melodramatismo frames, the filmmaker showed himself already by then as an effective director of actors, that managed to delve into human feelings with a Masterful realism.

The political circumstances of Japan at that time were complex and Ozu was immersed in the campaign of Manchuria (now Chinese territory) during the fulfilment of military service, developed between 1937 and 1939. The outbreak of the second World War allowed him to collaborate with the Japanese Department of propaganda, which made several films in Singapore. Captured by the British troops, he/she was interned in a prison camp, where he/she spent six months.

Changes in Japanese society after the capitulation were the subject of reflection by Ozu, who attended a profound revolution in the life of their country. The loss of traditional values and the growing disintegration of the family mark the new meaning of his work, once recovered for the film. The melodrama will once again be the chosen genre to capture this type of situations, characteristic of developed societies.

And if content elements can be seen as sensitive, as regards forms to highlight the qualities of its grammar, with a predominance of levels and means, consistent with the desire to show situations of misunderstanding and loneliness from a distanced perspective respectful with the environment of the protagonists by force.

Ozu camera portrayed everyday life making it one of the sliding windows, semi-covert after a column or on the edge of a door entrecerrada, revealing the intimacy without interfering in it, as if you need to frame it with the typical barriers to the Japanese House. The composition of levels shows also intended to place the lens to the height from the ground, because family life is developed precisely on the carpeting of rice straw and the Director wanted the Viewer to attend the action parallel to the players perspective.

The attention to detail and many examples of subtlety that offer their movies have led some Western critics to relate the work of Ozu with Zen. It never ceases to be somewhat risky, given that such arguments lack a demonstration basis and, moreover, the adoption of the own filmmaker, who refused to be labeled that way.Throughout its existence, Ozu seems to dump in the cinema and in this profession is your real family. It was never to marry. His best friends are the actor Chishu Ryu and screenwriter Kogo Noda, both regular contributors in their productions. Even the image of the perfect woman through the actress Setsuko Hara, interpreter of many of his films it sublimates.

In terms of its methods of work, it should be noted his thoroughness. Over several months he/she collaborated with Noda, filing the nuances of each script, exploring each of its narrative possibilities. It came to such an extent that improvement, that there is no moment of improvisation during the filming, as if the film were already defined completely before starting to operate the camera, even before beginning the Assembly.

The films of Ozu situations are recurrent. In a sense, seems every film to complete the previous content. All of them are similar, especially in the last stage of his career, and, one by one, however, reinforce a different profile, a new dimension of Japanese social and intimate life. Thus, in early summer (1951) witnessed the preparations for the wedding of a woman whose commitment has been fixed. Everything suggests in a forced situation, that will inevitably change the family environment of the protagonist. However, the facts are developed naturally, but also with melancholy. The double link, in this and other occasions, means the solitude of the elderly. The life of young people, in its evolution, shifts to the elderly. It is what happens in the magistral Tokyo story (1953), where the main couple feels that all his authority over the descendants has been replaced by the distance and even nuisance. Another generational barrier dramatic appears in aquatic herbs (1959), although perhaps the taste of sake (1962) - his film Testament - film detailing better that type of content.

The uprooting, loneliness and frustration in the family can move society, so it is perceptible to warn in the films of Ozu, the contrast between the urban environment, often febrile activity, and home interior world, scene of its small and large dramas. The way in which Ozu reflects the City emphasizes certain aesthetic details that set the interest and by its symbolic force, represent the industry and changing nature of Tokyo, usual scenario of their shoots.

The last years of the life of the filmmaker are dedicated to the development of new versions of his works. His mastery is recognized in Japan, where it is appreciated inside and outside of the professional world. Against the Westernization of Kurosawa, Japanese critics found in Ozu essences of a cinema genuinely Japanese, free of all the historical paraphernalia that has so much acceptance in the West. The filmmaker, however, focuses exclusively in their professional work. Cancer patient, left unfinished his latest project to the die.

The growing international recognition has permeated more criticism than at the public. Never been Ozu a majority acceptance, despite the exceptional quality of several of his films. On the other hand, the international distribution of his work, unlike what happens with Mizoguchi and Kurosawa, has been irregular, based most of scholars for analysis in a restricted series of films that, Yes, show a vigorous and personal style that places it at the height of the great names of the universal film.




1926: Kawaraban Kachikachiyama.1937: the eternal progreso.1947: do not get the luna.1963: turnips and carrots.


1927: The sword of the arrepentimiento.1928: dreams of youth; A loss; The pumpkin; A wandering pair; A hermoso.1929 body: the mountain of the treasure; Days of youth; Friends in the fight; I have graduated, but...; The life of an employee of offices; A boy honesto.1930: introduction to marriage; Go merrily; I suspended, but...; The woman of a night; The vengeful spirit of Eros; The lost opportunity; The joven.1931: the woman and the bearded; The beauty problems; The choir of Tokio.1932: there are no spring without women; However, we were born; Where are the dreams of youth lost?; Until our next encuentro.1933: A woman of Tokyo; Women in the fight; Heart caprichoso.1934: we should love our mother; The journey to Ukikusa.1935: the young Virgin; Tokyo is a nice site; A hostel in Tokio.1936: the pleasant life of College; Son unico.1937: what forgotten Lady? 1941: The Toda.1942 brothers: here is a padre.1947: history of an owner 1948: A hen to the viento.1949: spring tardia.1950: Las hermanas Munakata.1951: beginning of the verano.1952: the taste of the rice with tea verde.1953: Tokio.1956 tale: spring precoz.1957: Twilight in Tokio.1958: equinoccio.1959 flowers: good morning; Herb acuaticas.1960: autumn tardio.1961: the fall of the Kohayagawa.1962: the taste of sake.


BOCK, Audie: Japanese film directors. Kodansha International. Tokyo. 1978.

BORDWELL, David: Ozu and the poetics of cinema. Princeton University Press. 1988.

PALACES MORE, René (ed.): Yasujiro Ozu. 24 Valladolid international film week. 1979.

TESSIER, Max: Images du Cinéma japonais. Paris. Henri Veyrier. 1990.

ZUNZUNEGUI, Santos: "the perfume of zen". Magazine Nosferatu, no. 11 (January 1993).