Last week I had a chance to go over my extensive DVD collection of world cinema. I haven’t had the chance to really watch anything substantial lately thus my new Truffaut and Tsai Ming Liang DVDs have remained unwatched.
Looking through my DVD collection, I was also able to dig out my precious DVDs of the films of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.
There are many great Japanese directors, among them Akira Kurosawa, Nagisa Oshima, Masaki Kobayashi – I’d even include Takeshi Kitano, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. But personally, I think Ozu is the most Japanese of directors.
Ozu’s filmic style is so unique that his trademark static camera shots taken from a relatively low angle could never be referenced by other auteurs without mentioning it as an “ozu shot”.
Why do I say that Ozu is the most Japanese of directors? It is because of his minimalist style that transcends the film as a physical medium. In an Ozu film, the camera never moves – there are no fancy shots or creative angles. This austere treatment of the camera forces the viewer to see past the camera and into the story and the characters that they see. For Ozu, the camera is not an instrument but an objective eye that looks in on the story that unfolds in its presence. Even the low angle perfectly personifies Japanese culture, a sign of respect for the characters whose stories are being told.
Ozu’s style of filmmaking is unparalleled and the best representation of true Japanese cinema.