Yasujirō Ozu

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Yasujirō Ozu (小津 安二郎 Ozu Yasujirō?, 12 December 1903 – 12 December 1963) was a prominent Japanese film director and script writer. He is known for his distinctive technical style, developed since the silent era. Marriage and family, especially the relationships between the generations, are among the most persistent themes in his body of work.

Ozu's reputation outside his native Japan has grown steadily since his death. Influential monographs by Donald Richie, Paul Schrader and David Bordwell have ensured a wider appreciation of Ozu's style, aesthetics and themes in the West.

Contents

Life

Ozu was born in the Fukagawa district of Tokyo. At the age of ten, he and his siblings were sent by his father[1] to live in his father's home town of Matsuzaka, Mie Prefecture, where he spent most of his youth. He was educated at a boarding school but spent much of his time in the local cinema rather than a classroom.

He worked briefly as a teacher before returning to Tokyo in 1923 to join the Shochiku Film Company.

Ozu was well known for his drinking. In fact, he and his fellow screenwriter Kogo Noda used to measure the progression of their scripts by how many bottles of sake they had drunk. Occasionally visitors to his grave pay their respects by leaving cans and bottles of alcoholic drink. 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 ("nothingness").[2]

Career

Ozu was initially hired as an assistant cameraman. He became an assistant director within three years, and directed his first film, Zange no Yaiba (The Sword of Penitence, now lost), in 1927. He went on to make a further fifty-three films: twenty-six in his first five years as a director, and all but three for Shochiku. Ozu first made a number of short comedies, before turning to more serious themes in the 1930s. His Umarete wa mita keredo (I Was Born, But..., 1932), a comedy with serious overtones on adolescence, not only marks the beginning of this transition, but was also received by movie critics as the first notable work of social criticism in Japanese cinema, winning Ozu wide acclaim.

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