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  1. A Mother Should Be Loved (Ozu, 1934) -- partially lost film Starring: Den Obinata, Mitsuko Yoshikawa, Kôji Mitsui Written by: Kôgo Noda and Tadao Ikeda Cinematography by: Isamu Aoki Silent, Black and White, 1 hour 14 minutes. Drama Review: The first and last reels of A Mother Should Be Loved have been lost. It's speculated that because the film operated at a loss, it would have been common practice at the time for distributors to omit these sections in prints, which mostly contained the credits. Probably a benshi just narrated the beginning and ending to the audience. Before the first scenes, Sadao and Kosaku, two brothers, are taken to school by their father. Later, he dies. The surviving film starts there. When Sadao grows up and goes to college, he learns that his mother died when he was very young, and it was actually his stepmother who raised him. He suddenly resents the fact that she has always favored him over Kosaku, her actual son, and he vows to never return to the family. There are fights with his brother, and general melodrama ensues. (Mitsuko Yoshikawa in A Mother Should Be Loved) Generally speaking, I thought this film has been over-criticized. Some critics have rightfully pointed out that it's too melodramatic and almost monotonously lachrymose-- there's no letup in sad scenes. Ozu's father died while he was making this movie, so that was probably a significant contributing factor. Still, I found myself continuously pulled back into the story. For the first time in this series, I felt that slow Ozu burn. Final Grade: Marred by mixed acting and some ridiculously melodramatic fight scenes, this nevertheless feels like it marked a transition in Ozu's career to more serious films. Next up, that would lead to one of Ozu's real classics: A Story of Floating Weeds.
  2. Speaking of A Story of Floating Weeds, it will be airing on TCM this Sunday night. So will the remake. Be sure to watch!
  3. FilmSnob

    I Just Watched...

    They were used a lot in the Star Wars movies. It's acceptable in fantasy films with their soft lenses, but breaking the fourth wall felt badly out of place in neorealism. In every other respect, however, Bicycle Thieves was a very fine film.
  4. -------------------------------------------------------------------- Schedule for Week #8: Movie of the Week: A Story of Floating Weeds (Ozu, 1934) Also: A Mother Should Be Loved (Ozu, 1934) -- partially lost film -------------------------------------------------------------------- If you've seen Ozu's classic 1959 color remake, then A Story of Floating Weeds is the original upon which it was based. Some people prefer this film. It won best picture in Japan in 1934. Several scholars also cite this as the first 'masterwork' of Ozu's career, and it's appropriately the first Ozu film to receive a running commentary on the Criterion collection. Looking forward to it!
  5. FilmSnob

    I Just Watched...

    Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948) The huge number of wipe transitions annoyed the heck out of me, but otherwise a really good film. Totally unexpected but authentic ending. The bike plot stopped there, but makes you wonder about the untold psychological aspects of the rest of the story. Watched it on Filmstruck.
  6. Movie of the Week #7: Passing Fancy (Ozu, 1933) *** WINNER KINEMA JUNPO AWARD BEST FILM 1933 *** Starring: Takeshi Sakamoto, Nobuko Fushimi, Den Obinata, and Tokkankozô Written by: Tadao Ikeda Cinematography by: Shôjirô Sugimoto Silent, Black and White, 1 hour 40 minutes. Comedy, Drama Review: The first of many Ozu films starring Takeshi Sakamoto as the endearingly affable but comically stupid Kihachi. Passing Fancy is actually two movies. In the first half, Kihachi-- a 35 year-old single father working what must be a minimum wage job in some Tokyo slum-- becomes infatuated with young Harue, attractive but destitute 18 year-old homeless girl who is looking for work and a place to live. Most or all men reach a point in their lives where they can relate to Kihachi's situation, and his hopeless preening works to great comedic effect. He will buy the teenage girl a gift, he will compliment her beauty, he will dress up with his nicest outfit, he will shave his mustache, and more. But will he ever get to consummate his desire or manage to snag himself a beautiful young wife? "Go back to work, old man". That's what his strapping young friend, Jiro (Den Obinata) tells him over and over again. (Takeshi Sakamoto in Passing Fancy) For her part, Harue is played by Nobuko Fushimi, in the role of a traditional Japanese girl. More than once her position is compared to that of a prostitute or geisha. When Kihachi first meets her, Jiro tells him "don't fall for that old trick". Later, there is a provocative scene where Jiro stands in front of a kneeling Harue, his hands holding his belt and pants up, as if he could drop them any time. This is a family comedy though, so for the most part everyone is really nice to her. Nobuko Fushimi's performance was passable, that's about all, but she did strike me as probably the most lithe of Ozu's young actresses so far. (Nobuko Fushimi in Passing Fancy) About halfway through the film, the story starts to shift gears and focuses on the father-son relationship. Kihachi has been skipping work to flirt with this girl and drink at the pub. His son Tomio gets laughed at by the other boys because his father is so pathetic-- he's stupid, can't read, doesn't work, etc. Tomio finally loses it and goes home and throws a fit. He tears apart Kihachi's precious flower plant, one petal at a time. Most of their relationship gets characterized by comedy, such as when Kihachi scolds Tomio that he can't put the flower back together (Kihachi tries anyway, stupid enough to believe it might work). And there is an earlier scene where Kihachi doesn't wake Tomio up for school and dress him, but it's the other way around. (Tomio Aoki a.k.a. Tokkankozô in Passing Fancy) But the best and most dramatic scene of the movie comes at the end of the flower pot fight. Kihachi gets mad and spanks his kid. Tokkankozô musters up the courage to walk back over and hit his father repeatedly in the face. Kihachi and the audience understand the boy's frustration, having to grow up smarter and more mature than his own father. Kihachi acknowledges his shortcomings and apologizes, then they hug it out. More from Ozu: I'm not sure how universal this scene was, or the whole film for that matter, but anyone who has ever grown up in a run-down, working class family, can probably relate. There was something real and tangible about the subsistence level poverty, the disappointment in life, the clutter, the bad parenting. But despite those embarrassments, there is still the love between a father and son. Kihachi may be all the negative things he tearfully acknowledges about himself, but his kid loves him anyway. Final Grade: I don't know why this film didn't resonate with me more. I found it funny and touching at times, but perhaps too loosely structured and not cinematic. In that way, Passing Fancy reminded me more of I Flunked, But ... Maybe I'm tired of seeing another scene with a kid getting sick and the parent struggling to pay the doctor bill. That's the third time in an Ozu movie, so far. Probably the major weakness though was that the film didn't build towards anything. The major plotline gets resolved in the middle, then comes the most dramatic scene. Half the movie remained. If you want to watch an early Ozu family dramedy, I would still recommend Tokyo Chorus. It was a better film.
  7. Ozu Teapot Ozu used teapots extensively throughout his many films. Sometimes they were part of his famous pillow shots, or the steam may have commented on action. In Dragnet Girl however, Ozu would find a new use for teapots as a spatial reference cue. Whenever the narrative returned to the apartment, the camera showed the teapot on the table. Then it would move around and focus on what the characters were doing. It worked quite effectively in my opinion, and there were only a few occurrences, so it never reached the point of over-saturation. Probably the single best shot of the entire movie was during the climax, when Tokiko and Joji are fleeing the apartment and the cops start banging on the door. Not only does the camera move around the teapot and the table before ultimately focusing on the door, but it does so at a much faster speed. Those last 20-25 minutes of Dragnet Girl are just about the most thrilling, touching, and funny you will ever see in a silent film. -------------------------------------------------------------------- Schedule for Week #7: Movie of the Week: Passing Fancy (Ozu, 1933) -------------------------------------------------------------------- Passing Fancy looks to be a father-son film where the dad becomes infatuated with a much younger woman, and the boy isn't happy about it. It won the Kinema Junpo award for best picture in Japan in 1933. If you have the chance to watch Dragnet Girl, Passing Fancy, or any other Ozu films this weekend, post your comments anytime!
  8. More stills from Dragnet Girl, the last 23 minutes I could watch on loop for the rest of time:
  9. Movie of the Week #6: Dragnet Girl (Ozu, 1933) Starring: Kinuyo Tanaka, Jôji Oka, Sumiko Mizukubo Written by: Tadao Ikeda Cinematography by: Hideo Shigehara Piano score: Neil Brand Silent, Black and White, 1 hour 40 minutes. Crime, Drama, Romance Review: Optical illusions such as lenticular printing produce images that change form depending on the perspective of the viewer. Perhaps no other filmmaker's films can be described in quite the same way as those of Yasujiro Ozu. As Donald Richie once said, Ozu's stories don't find you-- you have to go out and find them. Dragnet Girl, the director's 28th film, provides the clearest example yet. It is absolutely critical (as I discovered) for the audience to view this film as a sometimes self-conscious parody. To see it with a critical eye would be a mistake. The difficulty arises because unlike modern films of the type, Dragnet Girl does not start out this way. Its moments of parody develop over time. There are no early scenes stuffed with running gags. There are no comic buffoons wandering around oblivious through the plot. Outside of a few quirks in the opening establishing shots, the story and the acting performances start out straight. Tokiko (played by the great Kinuyo Tanaka) has an office job as a typist and a boss who desires her. Her boyfriend Joji is a former boxing champ turned mobster. The early scenes see the couple flirting, attending a party, and hanging out with friends. They are stylishly in love. (Kinuyo Tanaka and Jôji Oka in Dragnet Girl) About 20 minutes into the running time, a young boxer named Hiroshi gets escorted into their apartment and asks if he can join the gang. He looks up to Joji, and considers him an idol. Joji tells the kid to scram, but the lad persists. Finally, Hiroshi gets accepted. The rest of the picture concerns the boy turning into a delinquent, his sister worrying about him, Joji falling in love with her, and his gilfriend Kinuyo Tanaka despairing over the new love triangle she finds herself in. What kind of parody is that? The first time I watched Dragnet Girl, I thought it was kind of an autistic film. There were moments of visual brilliance, one saucy performance from the wondrously attired Miss Tanaka, but several boring soap opera scenes dragging down the middle. Too many intertitles, too many erratic cuts, and way too many instances of characters doing things they would absolutely never do (one example includes Joji heading out alone to meet a woman in the night, despite his subordinates warning him it could be a trap). Kinuyo Tanaka pops into a scene for no reason just because people are talking about her boyfriend cheating on her. It just seemed like the most erratic and convenient occurrences kept happening. I really did think it was a case of the individual parts not adding up to any whole. (Kinuyo Tanaka in Dragnet Girl) But then as I was sitting down, ready to write a negative review, the thought occurred to me: perhaps Tokiko's borderline psychotic and unpredictable nature was at the heart of the film. Perhaps the strange twists and turns were all an Ozu joke. Maybe we're not always meant to take the film seriously -- so I went back and watched it again with parody in mind. In the opening shots, there are two clocks that tick side-by-side, but they don't have the same time. Then there is another clock that is five or ten minutes behind. A row of hats hangs orderly on the wall. Then, inexplicably, one falls off. Intercut with a row of office workers, but one is missing from her desk. It's Tokiko, who will be the psychotic femme-fatale in the film. She pulls a gun on a love rival and threatens to kill her, but it's really just a ploy to kiss the unsuspecting girl. She shoots her boyfriend when they're trying to escape from the police, and demands they turn themselves in. Genre conventions get turned on their head throughout Dragnet Girl, and once you understand what's going on, it's all terrific fun. (Sumiko Mizukubo in Dragnet Girl) Despite its brilliance, the film falls just short of being rated a masterpiece. There were some uneconomical detours surrounding the young boxer and his sister. Perhaps a few too many apartment scenes. But once the climax gets going -- oh boy. The action, the suspense, drama, humor, and genre-busting twists never let up. The last 23 minutes of Dragnet Girl are among the most beautiful and romantic in all of film. If you're looking for a movie to watch this week or weekend, make sure to check out Dragnet Girl. I'm in tears. I just love these films.
  10. Woman of Tokyo (Ozu, 1933) Starring: Yoshiko Okada, Ureo Egawa, and Kinuyo Tanaka Written by: Tadao Ikeda and Kôgo Noda Cinematography by: Hideo Shigehara Silent, Black and White, 47 minutes. Drama Review: The Criterion cover better captures the mood of this solemn film, but it features Kinuyo Tanaka because she's Kinuyo Tanaka, not the actual "woman of Tokyo", Yoshiko Okada, star of the film. A woman leads a double life -- typist by day, prostitute by night -- in order to pay for her brother's college education. When he discovers her secret, he assaults her, then commits suicide. Ozu's thoughts: Although it was a bit melodramatic and featured a poor acting performance from the male lead, Woman of Tokyo is not without merits and it's one of Ozu's most visually studied films. That's partly because of the shorter length, and partly because by this point in his career, Ozu's conceptualization of space, shot selection, and editing techniques had all more or less fully formed. In his book, David Bordwell laboriously describes some of the scenes in shot-by-shot detail, thoroughly analyzes Ozu's decoupage, and more. It's a bit much for an ordinary reviewer like me. I can appreciate the analysis from a film theory standpoint, but honestly I remember very little about this film visually, despite having watched it three times. Once again, turn off the added sound! On the other hand, I can vividly recall shots from Walk Cheerfully, Tokyo Chorus, and I Was Born, But ... which I consider superior films. I feel like I know the spacial layout of the home/neighborhood better in I Was Born, But ... Late Spring, and Tokyo Story than I do my own house. (Yoshiko Okada in Woman of Tokyo) Miss Okada as the star actress brought an especially mature, beautiful womanliness to her performance. There's a grim scene where her brother sadistically slaps her over and over again -- then after he flees the room, she kneels in front of a mirror to examine her marked face. The viewer understands that she is not just looking at bruised skin, but hurt feelings, and judging her own decisions, as well as the actions of her brother. Perhaps even asking herself what kind of woman she has become. Ureo Egawa and Kinuyo Tanaka, meanwhile, played the major supporting roles. Egawa gave an especially poor performance as the brother, partially due to his lack of skill, but partially due to the flat manner in which his character was written. Miss Tanaka was fresh-faced, barely 22 here, but quite ordinary compared to her commanding 1950s performances in masterpieces such as Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, and The Life of Oharu. Final Grade: Pretty short film, somewhat melodramatic, with mixed acting performances. Not essential Ozu unless you're a director or editing wonk. Yoshiko Okada's performance was worth it, but the brother's character was, quite frankly, not believable or well-constructed. Another scene with Ureo Egawa slapping someone near the ending, apparently nothing good happening to anyone, and nobody learning a thing. One of Ozu's bleakest films.
  11. FilmSnob

    The FilmStruck Thread

    Yeah, I have had Filmstruck since this Spring and never had any problems with it. Nothing else needed to watch on PC but it does use adobe flash player (?) .... lots of devices if you want to watch on smart TV and download the app.
  12. Guns, lots of guns. And smoke. And all kinds of film noir. Found this cool preview for the movie of the week, Dragnet Girl. Check it out: The ending of the movie is really a must watch for classic film fans. Truly sublime!

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