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Yasujiro Ozu. Lecture 13. Historical Context of Japanese Cinema. Growth of the Japanese film industry after the 1923 earthquake Successful Japanese film industry Early 1930s Output: 400 to 500 per year Studio industry model Vertically integrated companies Nikkatsu (cadre system)

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Yasujiro Ozu

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YasujiroOzu

Lecture 13


Historical Context of Japanese Cinema

  • Growth of the Japanese film industry after the 1923 earthquake

  • Successful Japanese film industry

    • Early 1930s Output: 400 to 500 per year

    • Studio industry model

      • Vertically integrated companies

        • Nikkatsu (cadre system)

        • Shochiku (cadre system)

        • Toho (producer system)

  • One of the only countries in which U.S. films did not overtake Japanese films in the local market


Japanese Cinema in the 1930s

  • Two kinds of film

    • 1. historical film: jidai-geki

      • Swordfights, chases, heroic deaths

    • 2. contemporary-life film: gendai-geki

      • Films about lower class life; comedies

  • Most influential filmmakers of this period: YasujiroOzu and Kenji Mizoguchi


Classical Hollywood Cinema: on space

  • The “continuity style” of Classical Hollywood Cinema “has as its aim the subordination of spatial (and temporal) structures to the logic of the narrative, especially to the cause/effect chain” (Bordwell and Thompson, 1976)

  • Space should not distract from the action; space is a site for action (Bordwell/Thompson, 1976)

  • Space (setting) serve the a) narrative and b) to reveal character traits


How to achieve the “continuity style”?

1.Certain spatial points are at the center of the dramatic action (unlike in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)

  • Usually main characters (sometimes objects) are spatial points

  • Camera follows these spatial points

  • Often everything else is out of focus

    2. 180-degree system

    Objective: to cut down on spatial disorientation between shots; to maintain a continuous flow; to limit spectatorial confusion; to make space legible

    Methods:

    • Match on action

    • Axis of action/180 degree rule

    • 30 degree rule

      3. Objects function as a) props that give a sense of authenticity/realism or b) to show something significant about the characters

    • Ex: Rome landmarks Bicycle Thieves; harmonica and boots in Paisá

      4. No graphic contrasts (as in Eisenstein) and no overly precise graphic matches (as in Vertov); consistent lighting levels

  • The surface of the film should not call attention to itself like in Entre’acteand Un ChienAndalouand Meshes of the Afternoon


Specific spatial points at the center of the drama: counter example


180-degree rule


180-degree rule (from Bordwell/Thompson)


180-degree rule (Rear Window)


180-degree rule (Bicycle Thieves)


Objects in the Classical Style: Buckets and Sheets (Bicycle Thieves)


Objects in the Classical Style: Harmonica and Boots (Paisan)


Graphic Matches in Editing: counter example to the Classical Style (from The Crowd)


Graphic Contrasts in Editing: counter example to the Classical Style (from Battleship Potemkin)


Ozu’s Style

  • Camera height vs. camera angle

    • Low camera height

    • Straight-on camera angle

  • Intermediate spaces (within a shot/within a scene/ between scenes) vs. establishing shots

    • “spaces between the points of narrative action” ex: landscapes, empty rooms, “actionless spaces” (Bordwell/Thompson, 1976, 46)

      • Methods

        • Focus (within a shot)

        • Cutaways (within a single scene)

        • Series of transitional shots (between scenes)

  • 360 degree shooting space

    • Multiples of 90 degrees

    • Two kinds of circular space

      • Camera circles around people and objects

      • Camera rotates on its axis at the center of the circle

  • Objects in space (sometimes symbolic, often not)

    • “hypersituated” (Bordwell/Thompson)—objects divorced from function

  • Graphic matches from shot to shot


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)

Low camera height


Low Camera Height


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)

Intermediate spaces:

spaces between points of narrative action


Traditional Establishing Shot


Ozu’sseries of actionlessspaces: Intermediate spaces:1. TRANSITIONS


Ozu’sseries of actionlessspaces: Intermediate spaces: 1. TRANSITIONS


Intermediate spaces:

1. TRANSITIONS; 2.Play with FOCUS


Intermediate spaces:

1. TRANSITIONS; 2.Play with FOCUS; 3. The CUTAWAY


More examples: Intermediate space: perspectiveless, actionless space


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)

360 degree space


180-degree rule (from Bordwell/Thompson)


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)

Hypersituated objects


“Hypersituated object”

  • Bordwell/Thompson:

    “In Hollywood, any objects which are not used as props or externalisations of character traits are simply there to be minimally noticeable as part of a general verisimilitude [appearance of being real] –a background for the narrative…. But in many Ozufilm scenes, the objects in the space of the scene vie successfully with the narrative action for attention.”


Vase sequence


Late Spring (Ozu, 1949)

Graphic matches


Graphic Matches


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