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April 2-May 11, 2004  

Yasujiro Ozu: A Centennial Celebration

As part of an international celebration to mark the centennial of the birth of the Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu (1903–1963), Harvard Film Archive, in association with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard and the Japan Society of Boston, presents a major retrospective of the director’s work from his four-decade career. Featuring newly struck 35mm prints of most of the films, the retrospective includes beloved masterpieces such as Tokyo Story and Late Spring, many rarely seen silent works, and a live benshi performance by Midori Sawato, demonstrating how a silent Ozu movie would have been presented to Japanese audiences in the 1920s or early 1930s.

Often considered the “most Japanese” of all Japanese directors, Ozu was proclaimed “one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century in any medium and in any country” by the British Film Institute. The director’s reputation as a “transcendental” minimalist rests largely on his later films, but, in fact, his entire oeuvre is much richer and more complex. It includes crime films, proto–film noirs, melodramas, social realism, and popular comedies—many of which are seen here for the first time. Least well known to western audiences are the early films from the twenties and thirties: with their flapper heroines and bumbling young heroes, they reveal Ozu’s love for Hollywood films of the silent era. Collectively, the films form a Balzacian human comedy, full of the tragedies of ordinary life rendered, by turns, with exquisite formal precision and emotional nuance. Less a story teller than a lyrical portraitist, Ozu calibrates the distance between tradition and modernity, between parents and their children, between and youth and age, and—ultimately—between cinema and life.

Program notes modified from original text written by James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario


Opening Night: SOLD OUT
April 2 (Friday) 7 pm

A Straightforward Boy (Tokkan Kozo)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1929, b/w, silent, 28 min.
With Tomio Aoki, Tatso Saito, Takeshi Sakamoto
Live Piano Accompaniment

Long thought lost, this delightful little film was written quickly over beers in a Ginza bar and shot in three days, which may account for its freewheeling nature. A hapless crook kidnaps a bespectacled tyke whose name, Tokkan Kozo, means “a boy who charges into you.” The brat turns out to have an insatiable appetite for candy and is more trouble than he is worth. The child star Tomio Aoki became so popular that he changed his name to Tokkan Kozo and appeared in several other Ozu films.

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Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1953, b/w, 136 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara
Japanese with English subtitles

Tokyo Story has regularly placed on the top ten lists of greatest films of all time, along with Rules Of the Game, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Citizen Kane. It should be seen at least once, if not once a year. An elderly couple journeys to Tokyo to visit their children and are confronted by indifference, ingratitude, and self-absorption. The traditional tatami-and-tea domesticity fairly crackles with vexation and discontent; only the placid daughter-in-law (Setsuko Hara, summoning up a life of disappointment) shows any kindness to the old people. When they are packed off to a resort by their impatient children, the film deepens into an unbearably moving meditation on mortality.

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April 3 (Saturday) 9 pm

A Straightforward Boy (Tokkan Kozo)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1929, b/w, silent, 28 min.
With Tomio Aoki, Tatso Saito, Takeshi Sakamoto
Live Piano Accompaniment

See description for April 2

 

Days of Youth (Wakaki Hi)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1929, b/w, 60 min.
With Ichiro Yuki, Tatsuo Saito, Junko Matsui

Ozu’s earliest extant film reveals the director as a master of Hollywood-style filmmaking. (Donald Richie and David Bordwell have both pointed out that Days of Youth is indebted to the films of Harold Lloyd and Ernst Lubitsch.) Two friends at Waseda University, one a smart guy, the other a bumbler, fall in love with the same girl but postpone courting her until they are through “exam hell.” They later go on a ski holiday in Akakura and discover that she is about to enter into an arranged marriage with the leader of their ski club. Punctuated by great gags involving runaway skis, wet paint, hot chocolate, gloves, socks, and a handful of persimmons, Days of Youth offers our first glimpse of Ozu regular Chishu Ryu, who appeared in more than a dozen of Ozu’s finest films.

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April 4 (Sunday) 7 pm
April 5 (Monday) 9 pm

Late Spring (Banshun)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1949, b/w, 108 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura
Japanese with English subtitles

The first and finest telling of a story Ozu was to remake with variations many times, Late Spring focuses on the dilemma faced by a young woman (Hara) who lives with her widowed father. She refuses several marriage offers, preferring to keep her father company rather than assume the duties of a housewife and mother. Determined that she will wed, he lets her think that he plans to remarry. Hailed by Donald Richie as “one of the most perfect, the most complete, and most successful studies of character ever achieved in Japanese cinema,” Late Spring was also one of Ozu’s personal favorites.

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April 4 (Sunday) 9 pm

Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1953, b/w, 136 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara
Japanese with English subtitles

See description for April 2

 

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April 6 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Woman of Tokyo (Tokyo no onna)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1933, b/w, silent, 47 min.
With Yoshiko Okada, Ureo Egawa, Kinuyo Tanaka
Live Piano Accompaniment

One of the director’s most powerful films, Woman of Tokyo tells the story of a young woman who supports her student brother by working as a translator by day and a prostitute by night. Discovering the source of her illicit income, the brother is driven to a desperate act. Mizoguchi comes to mind often in the film, especially in the devastating sequence in which the prostitute confronts the brutal hypocrisy of her brother. Rediscovered in the early 1980s, Woman of Tokyo was acclaimed for its “a subtle riot of discordant formal devices. . . . and breathtaking wrench of perspective, from individual tragedy to matter-of-fact social breakdown.” Ozu never made another film quite like this one. Neither has anyone else

A Mother Should Be Loved (Haha o Kawazuya)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1934, b/w, silent, 71 min.
With Den Ohinata, Hideo Mitsui, Mitsuko Yoshikawa
Live Piano Accompaniment

Often analyzed despite its missing first and final reels, A Mother Should Be Loved centers on the aftermath of the death of the patriarch of the Kajiwara clan. Eight years after the father’s passing, one of his sons discovers that he is actually the issue of his father’s first, long-dead wife and that his stepmother has been guarding the secret for many years. The ensuing turmoil reveals several other blots on the family’s supposedly “stainless” reputation. For Ozu, whose own father died during the production, the film’s theme of the decline of masculine authority may have had a deeply felt personal resonance.

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April 7 (Wednesday) 9 pm

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

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1932, b/w, silent, 90 min.
With Satoko Date, Ureo Egawa, Choko Iida
Live Piano Accompaniment

Set in Tokyo’s business world during the Depression, this drama concerns a rich boy whose life has been made easy by his reprobate father. He cheats his way through college but must grow up when his father suddenly dies, leaving him head of the firm. Three of his college chums turn to him for jobs, and he cynically trades a position in return for the fiancée of one of the young men. The sadistic undercurrents of the film’s social satire are unsettling, particularly in the sequence in which the spoiled young man rejects the woman his father had chosen for him to wed.

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April 9 (Friday) 7 pm

Walk Cheerfully (Hogaraka ni Ayume)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1930, b/w, silent, 100 min.
With Hiroko Kawasaki, Minoru Takada, Satoko Date
Live Piano Accompaniment

Audacious and packed with action, Walk Cheerfully is the story of a new kind of hoodlum who began to appear in westernized Japan of the era: a man with a taste for movies, jazz, flappers, and snappy suits, he seemed to have walked off the mean streets of America. Kenji, a petty thief and swindler known as “Ken the Knife,” falls hard for a virtuous woman, decides to go straight, and ends up a window washer. His girlfriend (her Louise Brooks bob signaling evil) plays the femme fatale, attempting to lure him back into his old life of crime. Despite its film noir compositions, rapid editing, and virtuoso moving camerawork, Walk Cheerfully is full of trademark Ozu themes, motifs, and devices, including his famous “tatami shot,” in which the camera is placed at the level of a person sitting on a tatami mat.

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April 9 (Friday) 9 pm

An Inn in Tokyo (Tokyo no Yado)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1935, b/w, silent, 82 min.
With Takeshi Sakamoto, Yoshiko Okada, Choko Iida
Live Piano Accompaniment

Often compared to the later neorealist classic The Bicycle Thief, An Inn in Tokyo chronicles three days in the life of an unemployed factory worker who wanders through Tokyo’s industrial hinterland with his two sons, looking for work. When he attempts to help a woman in financial distress, he turns to theft. In the film’s most famous sequence, the starving family has an imaginary picnic in the midst of a bleak landscape of smokestacks. David Bordwell suggests that in its rigorous visual patterning and plaintive themes, “An Inn in Tokyo constitutes a summary of Ozu’s silent work.”

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April 10 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Only Son (Hitori Musuko)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1936, b/w, 87 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Choko Iida, Shinichi Himori
Japanese with English subtitles

Ozu’s first “talkie” was also, according to critic Donald Richie, “one of Ozu’s darkest.” A peasant mother sacrifices everything to pay for her only son’s education in Tokyo, but when she comes to visit him discovers that her struggle has not paid off. Many of Ozu’s themes—generational conflicts, the dashed hopes of youth, and disappointment in life—are given stark expression in this ambitious narrative with its complex time span and innovative use of sound. While The Only Son marked Ozu’s entry into sound production, it was the last film he shot at the Kamata studio, which could no longer be used with the advent of sound because of frequent passing trains.

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April 10 (Saturday) 9 pm

What Did the Lady Forget? (Shukujo wa Nani o Wasuretaka)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1937, b/w, 73 min.
With Sumiko Kurishima, Tatsuo Saito, Michiko Kuwano
Japanese with English subtitles

This mordant comedy has gained a reputation as top-flight Ozu. A professor of medicine and his bossy society wife play host to their niece, the brash daughter of an Osaka merchant who thinks she can teach Tokyo a thing or two about modern fun. The hen-pecked husband is scheduled for a golfing weekend but decides instead to seek refuge in a student’s house and hide out from the women. A biting Lubitsch-style satire, What Did the Lady Forget? mocks the many foibles of the Japanese bourgeoisie, including its obsession with cleanliness, its eclectic bric-a-brac, its acquisitive conception of tradition, and its social bluntness.

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April 11 (Sunday) 7 pm
April 14 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Early Spring (Soshun)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1956, b/w, 144 min.
With Chikage Awashima, Keiko Kishi, Chishu Ryu
Japanese with English subtitles

Ozu’s longest film, and one of his richest, Early Spring followed Tokyo Story after a three-year hiatus. The hope promised by the title quickly fades as Shoji, a recent graduate, becomes an office worker and gradually realizes that he is trapped—in his job, his marriage, his predictable life. His attempt to forestall the inevitable future of disillusionment and loneliness by dallying with a young, flirtatious typist named Goldfish leads to separation from his wife and, finally, a new position in a rural outpost. Ozu treats what he called “the pathos of the white-collar life” with characteristic reticence and clear-eyed sympathy; his meticulous portrayal of the rhythms of a “salaryman’s” life—the endless cycle of commuting, office hell, and drinking—achieves a kind of quotidian grandeur.

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April 12 (Monday) 9:15 pm
April 13 (Tuesday) 9 pm

The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (Toda-ke no Kyodai)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1941, b/w, 105 min.
With Mieko Takamine, Shin Saburi, Hideo Fujino
Japanese with English subtitles

The decline of a once-important family is the subject of many great films, from The Magnificent Ambersons to Written on the Wind, and this is Ozu’s powerful assay of the theme. Foreshadowing Tokyo Story and its motif of filial callousness and The End of Summer in its portrait of a disintegrating household, The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family presents a daring critique of the social mores of the rich. The tale is set in motion when the patriarch of the Toda clan suddenly dies, forcing his children to sell the family villa and take care of their widowed mother. She soon finds herself shunted from household to household, carrying her bird and plants throughout her odyssey even as her children pay cruel, eloquent lip service to the tradition of familial duty. This was Ozu’s first collaboration with cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta,who shot nearly all his films for the next two decades.

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April 17 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Lady and the Beard (Shukujo to Hige)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1931, b/w, silent, 75 min.
With Tokihiko Okada, Satoko Date, Choko Iida
Live Piano Accompaniment

The Lady and the Beard begins as a knockabout, vulgar comedy but shades into melancholy and pathos. The “beard” of the title belongs to Okajima, a kendo sword fencer and collegian who cannot find a job in Depression-era Japan. The beard comes off when “the lady”—a typist he has saved from a mugging—convinces Okajima it’s a hindrance to gainful employment. Even clean-shaven, he cannot shrug off trouble: the new woman in his life turns out to be a jewel thief. The Lady and the Beard is fascinating for its “sexual audacity” and for its complex critique of both westernization and narrow-minded Japanese nationalism.

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April 17 (Saturday) 9 pm

Tokyo Chorus (Tokyo no Gassho)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1931, b/w, silent, 91 min.
With Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo, Hideo Sugawara
Live Piano Accompaniment

An office worker is dismissed from his position in an insurance company when he stands up for a colleague in a minor dispute. Facing the financial demands of his family, he walks the street looking for work until he meets an old high school teacher now managing a restaurant. As is often the case with Ozu’s films of this period, Tokyo Chorus begins as comedy and darkens into social critique. Striking chords similar to I Was Born, But ... the film poignantly illustrates the nobility of parenthood as the children accept that the father they admired has become a humble worker in order to feed his family.

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April 18 (Sunday) 7 pm

Dragnet Girl (Hijosen no Onna)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1933, b/w, silent, 100 min.
With Kinuyo Tanaka, Joji Oka, Kinuyo Tanaka
Live Piano Accompaniment

Irresistibly titled, Dragnet Girl casts Kinuyo Tanaka against type as a Dietrich-style vamp whose days are spent as a typist and whose nights are dedicated to the underworld. She stops at nothing to keep her man, a one-time boxing champ and now two-bit criminal ringleader, and she resorts to desperate measures when a young innocent attracts his eye. Influenced by American gangster films and by the baroque visual style of Josef von Sternberg, Dragnet Girl ,with its chiaroscuro, refracted images, chockablock compositions, and sweeping camera movement, is a densely stylized and engrossing work.

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April 18 (Sunday) 9 pm

That Night’s Wife (Sono Yo no Tsuma)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1930, b/w, silent, 65 min.
With Mitsuko Ichimura, Tokihiko Okada, Tatsuo Saito
Live Piano Accompaniment

The title suggests a sex comedy, but That Night’s Wife is a tense suspense thriller based on a popular Japanese short story of the time called “From Nine to Nine.” A penniless commercial artist robs an office to pay for medicine for his critically ill daughter. A police detective pursues him to his home and is held captive by the artist’s gun-wielding wife, who spends the night watching over her husband and child. The dark, tense atmosphere has been compared to early Lang and von Sternberg, while Ozu’s use of the couple’s claustrophobic flat as a single set evokes the stylistic bravura of early Dreyer films. But That Night’s Wife remains an Ozu film, with the melodrama firmly rooted in social and domestic malaise.

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April 20 (Tuesday) 7 pm
April 21 (Wednesday) 9 pm

The Record of a Tenement Gentleman (Nagaya Shinshi Roku)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1947, b/w, 72 min.
With Tomio Aoki, Choko Iida, Reikichi Kawamura
Japanese with English subtitles

A neglected Ozu masterpiece, The Record of a Tenement Gentleman has the ineffably sad, timeless quality of his best films. Set in bombed-out postwar Tokyo, the film charts the relationship between a stern, aging widow who does not like children and an abandoned child dumped in her lap. Exasperated by his gracelessness and bed-wetting, the woman becomes increasingly hostile and devises various ways to get rid of the child. Chishu Ryu has a delectable role as the peepshow proprietor turned astrologer who initially abandons the boy to the widow. Tender, humorous, and affecting, The Record of a Tenement Gentleman ends on a plangent note that suggests the scope of postwar Japan’s problem with neglected children.

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April 20 (Tuesday) 8:30 pm

There Was a Father (Chichi Ariki)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1942, b/w, 94 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Shuji Sano, Shinichi Himori
Japanese with English subtitles

There Was a Father chronicles the relationship of a widower and his son over two decades. The father is a strict, unyielding teacher who reflects the wartime ideology of self-sacrifice and stoicism in his belief that “everyone must do his duty.” When a student drowns on an outing, the teacher takes responsibility, quits his profession, and takes his son to live in his hometown in the country. Father and son are soon separated, their visits becoming less frequent as the ambitious boy moves to Tokyo to continue his education. Structured around a series of quiet talks between the widower and his son, the film enjoins people not to give vent to their feelings, especially not to cry, and then overwhelms its audience with intensely concentrated emotion.

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April 23 (Friday) 7 pm

Early Summer (Bakushu)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1951, b/w, 135 min.
With Setsuko Hara, Chishu Ryu, Chikage Awashima
Japanese with English subtitles

A family drama set in Kamakura, the leisurely, poignant Early Summer ends, as do so many Ozu films, in tears—theirs and ours. The Mamiya family takes up the challenge of finding a husband for Noriko (Setsuko Hara), a happily unmarried “working girl.” Her boss suggests a middle-aged businessman as a suitable prospect, but Noriko impulsively accepts another proposal and the family begins to disintegrate—ever so quietly —in the wake of her marriage. Consistently ranked with Late Spring and Tokyo Story as the best of Ozu’s postwar films, Early Summer is perhaps the most freely structured of his late work, with its elliptical narrative logic and constantly shifting rhythms.

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April 23 (Friday) 9:30 pm
April 25 (Sunday) 7 pm

Equinox Flower (Higan-bana)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozo
Japan, 1958, color, 120 min.
With Shin Saburi, Kinuya Tanaka, Ineko Arima
Japanese with English subtitles

Ozu’s first film made in color is both a delicate elegy and delectable comedy—the portrait of a domestic tyrant at odds with his liberated daughter, who shuns the idea of arranged marriage. A succession of quietly implosive epiphanies, Equinox Flower combines the director’s signature visual precision with color coding (with special use of Ozu’s favorite, red) that underscores key elements of the environment. As the father is slowly won over, he sums up the director’s own sense of life’s capriciousness: “Everyone is inconsistent now and then, except God. Life is full of inconsistencies. The sum total of all the inconsistencies of life is life itself.”

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Buy Advance Tickets
Live Benshi Performance by Midori Sawato
April 24 (Saturday) 8 pm

I Was Born But... (Umarete Wa mita keredo...)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1932, b/w, silent, 100 min.
With Hideo Sugawara, Tomio Aoki, Tatsuo Saito
Live Piano Accompaniment

Hailed by film critic Donald Richie as “a masterpiece,” I Was Born But … was financial and critical hit in its original release (winning the Kinema Jumpo poll as best Japanese film of the year) and remains a favorite of such Ozuphiles as director Wim Wenders and writer Phillip Lopate. In this darkly funny look at the conflict between parents and their offspring, an office clerk moves to the suburbs with his wife and two sons. Bullied by the other kids, the two boys turn into truants and begin to see in their father’s toadying ways with his boss the seeds of a life of flunkeyism. Their impatience with their parents and the hypocrisy of the adult world leads them to an intriguing form of civil and social disobedience.

Benshi were the “narrators” of silent-era films in Japan and played a key role in the general popularity of movies of the time. Like the tayu narrators of the traditional Bunraku puppet theater, benshi became star entertainers and were often as popular as movie actors or directors. Midori Sawato, one of the few modern benshi, has won large new audiences in Japan for American, European, and Japanese films from the silent era.

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April 27 (Tuesday) 7 pm

A Story of Floating Weeds (Ukigusa Monogatari)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1934, b/w, silent, 89 min.
With Takeshi Sakamoto, Tomio Aoki, Choko Iida

A pinnacle film from Ozu’s silent period, A Story of Floating Weeds concerns the leader of a ragtag Kabuki troupe who is stranded in a remote mountain village, where he encounters his forgotten illegitimate son. Believing his father long dead, the son falls in love with a young actress who has been bribed by the old man’s mistress to seduce him. In Ozu’s hands the reversals and revelations that follow transcend mere melodrama. The poet of urban, domestic Tokyo, Ozu here evokes with loving detail the “floating” world of an itinerant theater group and the milieu of rural Japan—rain-drenched and dilapidated, rustic and religious. Ozu was so fond of the story that he remade the film in 1959 as, simply, Floating Weeds.

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April 27 (Tuesday) 9 pm

I Flunked But … (Rakudai wa shita Keredo...)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1930, b/w, silent, 94 min.
With Tomio Aoki, Kinuyo Tanaka, Chishu Ryu
Live Piano Accompaniment

Ozu was particularly fond of this college comedy because it was the first of his films to give Chishu Ryu, his favorite actor, a major role. (The great actress Kinuyo Tanaka, largely known for her roles in Mizoguchi’s films, also appears.) A student facing “exam hell” decides to cheat by writing crib notes on his shirt. The plan goes awry when an overly solicitous landlady sends the shirt to the laundry, thereby guaranteeing that the miscreant will fail. Ozu’s delectable irony lies in the “but ...” after flunking—the student’s failure turns out far sweeter than the success of his companions.

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I Graduated But … (Daigaku wa Deta Keredo …)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1929, b/w, silent, fragment, 10 min.
With Utako Suzuki, Minoru Takada, Kinuyo Tanaka
Live Piano Accompaniment

In this short reconstruction of an otherwise lost film, Ozu focuses on the unemployment that was rampant among college graduates in late-1920s Japan. The film’s protagonist, a recent graduate, turns down a position as a receptionist because it is beneath him. He returns home to discover that his mother and his fiancée have arrived from the country. Lying about his situation, the unemployed young man gets married, and his new wife is forced to work in a bar to make ends meet. Filled with references to American comedies (including a poster of Harold Lloyd’s Speedy), the rare I Graduated But … deftly combines social criticism and light-hearted humor.

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April 28 (Wednesday) 9:30 pm

A Hen in the Wind (Kaze no Naka no Mendori)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1948, b/w, 84 min.
With Kinuyo Tanaka, Shuji Sano, Chishu Ryu
Japanese with English subtitles

This postwar drama stars Mizoguchi’s favorite actress, Kinuyo Tanaka, as a woman driven to prostitution for survival. Destitute as she awaits her husband’s return from the army, she tries to make a living first as a seamstress and then by selling the few goods she has. But when her son falls ill and she has to pay the hospital bills, a neighbor advises her to start working the street. More complex and ambiguous than many of the other Japanese films made under the American postwar occupation, A Hen in the Wind marks the onset of Ozu’s celebrated late style, which emerges in the film’s strikingly crisp photography and its singular patterns of narration, composition, and editing.

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May 2 (Sunday) 7 pm
May 8 (Saturday) 9:15 pm

Tokyo Twilight (Tokyo Boshoku)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1957, b/w, 141 min.
With Ineko Arima, Isuzu Yamada, Chishu Ryu
Japanese with English subtitles

Some of Ozu’s most striking compositions grace Tokyo Twilight, whose dusky title suggests sadness, transience, ambiguity—appropriate for this tale of a family’s downfall. Setsuko Hara is magnificent as a woman who leaves her abusive, alcoholic husband and returns home to her father (Chishu Ryu) and younger sister. The latter, pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend, undergoes an abortion before both sisters discover a family secret that has devastating consequences. Set in a Tokyo quarter of pachinko and mahjong parlors, rundown bars, and noodle shops in the gray chill of midwinter, Tokyo Twilight seems more histrionic than many Ozu dramas. Yet the low-slung camera shots, straight cuts, and severely delimited space, the marvelously detailed soundtrack and distinctive music, combine to make the film classically Ozu.

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May 3 (Monday) 9 pm

Passing Fancy (Dekigokoro)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1933, b/w, silent, 101 min.
With Takeshi Sakamoto, Nobuko Fushimi, Den Ohikata

Set in old Edo in the sweltering summer heat, Passing Fancy concerns an illiterate day laborer who is raising his son (Ozu’s favorite brat, Tokkan Kozo) with the help of a friend. Both men end up involved with the same young woman, whose rejection of the father leads him into drunkenness, dissipation, and a violent quarrel with his beloved son. Playing one of the most vivid figures in all of Ozu’s work, Takeshi Sakamoto plumbs every aspect of his character’s blustering, besotted persona. The film’s unusual concentration on character, however, is matched by an arresting visual style typical of his best films of the period.

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May 4 (Tuesday) 7 pm
May 5 (Wednesday) 9 pm

The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (Ochazuke no Aji)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1952, b/w, 115 min.
With Shin Saburi, Michiyo Kogure, Koji Tsuruta
Japanese with English subtitles

The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice has one of the great film titles, even though it might have more appropriately been called “Contempt.” Ozu set out to portray a man from the viewpoint of a woman, and produced this subtly painful comedy about a married couple drifting apart. He is a stolid, quiet country-bred businessman; she’s a city-bred snob bored with domestic life and scornful of her husband’s rustic ways (including his taste for the eponymous treat). When a favorite niece comes to visit, the unhappy couple is confronted with the possibility of reconciliation.

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May 4 (Tuesday) 9 pm

The Munekata Sisters (Munekata Shimai)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1950, b/w, 116 min.
With Kinuyo Tanaka, Hideko Takamine, Ken Uehara
Japanese with English subtitles

Two of Japan’s greatest actresses and several leading actors were assembled for this stunning “prestige production,” which Ozu was commissioned to direct. The Munekata sisters—Setsuko (played by Mizoguchi veteran Kinuyo Tanaka) and Mariko (Naruse star Hideko Takamine)—reveal the two poles of postwar Japanese society. Feisty and modern Mariko dresses in western attire and represents the liberated woman, while the placid and traditional Setsuko dresses in kimonos. To emphasize the tensions between modernity and tradition, between the old Japan and the new, Ozu employs a series of picturesque settings such as the Moss Temple in Kyoto, a mountain villa in Hakone, and the Yakushiji Temple near Nara. Though more linear and elaborately mounted than any other Ozu film, The Munekata Sisters is typically rigorous and exquisitely composed. In the end Ozu manages to wrest profound emotion from convention.

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May 7 (Friday) 7 pm
May 10 (Monday) 9 pm

Good Morning (Ohayo)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1959, color, 93 min.
With Koji Shigaraki, Chishu Ryu, Yoshiko Kuga
Japanese with English subtitles

A comedy of manners and satirical critique of 1950s consumerism, Good Morning updates the silent I Was Born, But … and broadens its humor. Two rambunctious boys living in a Tokyo suburb are determined to have a television set so that they can watch wrestling and baseball. Their father (Chishu Ryu), who predicts that “TV will produce 100 million idiots,” refuses, and when told to shut up the boys take the command literally and zip their lips—forever. Their refusal to respond to such banalities as “ohayo” (good morning) leads to a comedy of misunderstanding, which accelerates until everyone is in an uproar except the beatific, belligerently silent boys.

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May 7 (Friday) 9 pm
May 9 (Sunday) 9 pm

Late Autumn (Akibiyori)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1960, color, 127 min.
With Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa, Chishu Ryu
Japanese with English subtitles

As the title suggests, Late Autumn is tinged with a sense of the inevitable end of things—especially happiness. In a variant of Ozu’s favorite theme, a widow (Setsuko Hara) lives quietly with her devoted daughter, who rebuffs any suggestion that she should be married. Three middle-aged businessmen, old friends of the family, try to act as matchmakers and decide that the widow must be married first, to “free” the daughter of her familial obligations. Ozu said of Late Autumn: “People sometimes complicate the simplest things. Life, which seems complex, suddenly reveals itself as very simple—and I wanted to show that in this film.” He makes of this situation both a comedy—as the well-intentioned schemes of the three businessmen go awry—and an elegy of transience.

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May 8 (Saturday) 7 pm

Floating Weeds (Ukigusa)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1959, color, 119 min.
With Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyo, Ayako Wakao
Japanese with English subtitles

Shot by Japan's greatest cinematographer, Kazuo Miyagawa (Ugetsu, Rashomon, Enjo) and starring an extraordinary ensemble, the rarely seen Floating Weeds is suffused with the nostalgia and bittersweetness of the late Ozu. A remake of his silent A Story of Floating Weeds, the film focuses on an itinerant acting troupe, "weeds" who "float" through the countryside. When they arrive in a remote fishing village after a long absence, the head of the troupe is confronted with a dilemma of paternity. He must either reveal himself to be the father of one of the locals, a strapping young postman who believes him to be only his uncle, or watch as the villager is enticed into an affair with a young actress. The complications are ruefully funny, but as always with Ozu, shade into melancholic resignation.

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Introduced by Director Masahiro Shinoda
May 11 (Tuesday) 7 pm

An Autumn Afternoon (Samma no Aji)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Japan, 1962, color, 112 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Schinichiro Mikami
Japanese with English subtitles

Ozu's last film and one of his most sublime, An Autumn Afternoon was undoubtedly influenced by the death, during filming, of his mother, with whom he had lived all his life. The film is suffused with an autumnal sense, evocative of the end of things, that is countered by its gently satirical portrait of contemporary Japan. An Autumn Afternoon returns to a perennial Ozu theme: a widower's decision to marry off his only daughter, despite her objections. Having done the right thing, the old man becomes painfully aware of his isolation and loss, and in the fashion of other disaffected elders within the Ozu universe, finds a measure of solace in drunken comradeship.

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