Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu (12 December 1903 – 12 December 1963)

Yasujiro Ozu was born in the old Fukagawa district of Tokyo, to a fertilizer merchant, in 1903. In 1923, after a couple of years as an assistant teacher in rural Japan, Ozu was hired as assistant cameraman at the Shochiku Motion Picture Company. Early in his career, Ozu began to experiment with an idiosyncratic film style that ran contrary to the conventions of Japanese or Hollywood cinema of the day. He strove to reduce and simplify his film style; he cast such mainstays as the fade, the dissolve, and the pan from his cinematic palette. He shot solely from a low camera angle, using a 50mm lens, and he subordinated spatial continuity to visual aesthetics. Ozu directed his first film in 1927,The Sword of Penitence. In 1932, he began to hit his creative stride with the touching comedy I Was Born, But…, which was his first commercial success.

After the war, Ozu reached his creative peak and made some of his finest films, including Late Spring, Early Summer, Floating Weeds, An Autumn Afternoon, and his masterpiece Tokyo Story, which is generally considered one of the greatest films ever made. The films of Ozu are simple, contemplative, and edged with nostalgia and sadness. Through the course of his long career, from 1927 to 1962, Ozu refined and narrowed the scope of his films to the bare essentials. His oeuvre, which is almost completely confined to that of domestic dramas, is thematically quite coherent from one film to the next. Though the particulars of the characters might differ, they are all snugly enmeshed in the same quiet world. There are no heroes or villains, no wild successes or great failures; his characters are ordinary people leading ordinary lives.

Ozu remained single and childless all of his life and stayed alone with his mother who died less than two years before his own death. Ozu died in 1963 of cancer on his 60th birthday. His grave at Engaku-ji in Kamakura bears no name—just the character mu - 无 ("nothingness").

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