Thompson, Kristin. "Lubitsch, Acting and the Silent Romantic Comedy." Film History 13.4 (2001): 390-408.
Thompson starts off the article by writing about Ernst Lubitsch's pantomimic acting style, which was largely influenced by German theatre, which "remained part of Lubitsch's style until near the end of his German period." Then, she documents his changing style as he moves to Hollywood films.
Lubitsch's Hollywood style is what we see influenced Ozu's earlier films. Lubitsch "sought to tell his stories through visual means whenever possible...[and often] expressed his desire to minimise the use of intertitles." Similarly, in Tokyo Chorus, intertitles only occur when absolutely necessary. In many instances, the gesture or facial expressions of the actors are enough to indicate the complex emotions and family dynamics. Also, Thompson points out that, as a director, Lubitsch knew exactly how he wanted his scenes to be and often "acted out each scene in detail and expected [his actors] to copy him closely." This is another parallel between the two directors, as Ozu was systematic in the way he set up his scenes--often he would have his actors rehearse a scene repeatedly until it was exactly as he envisioned it. Thompson quotes Patsy Ruth Miller, "The whole film was visualised in his head, so he wasn't very flexible. He didn't want you going off the beaten track with a gesture if it wasn't what he had in mind." The characterization of Lubitsch could easily be about Ozu as well.
Richie, Donald. "Shooting." Ozu. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. 105-158.
In this section, Richie takes apart the elements of Ozu's films through the techniques of shooting the films. He discusses composition, camera angles, symbolism, and visual aspects in general of Ozu's films.
Richie's analysis of the tracking shots Ozu uses in Tokyo Chorus reveals the parallels Ozu was attempting to make between "the lives of schoolboys, office works, and the unemployed." He also discusses Ozu's low camera position, which he states may have originated from the scene in Tokyo Chorus in which the scene was framed for the children and the audience initially only sees the parents from the waist down. Richie says this explanation may be a valid one, "for it fully accords with Ozu's unique conception of the role of composition in cinema." He contrasts the pictorial composition of Mizoguchi, which involves "the Japanese kind of nature portrait," with the pictorial compositions of Ozu--which were affected by "the great influence of American cinema on Ozu." Richie describes the Ozu set as "almost like a school [where] the director taught the actors how to do everything." This is reminiscent of Lubitsch's methods, in which he would act out the scenes for the actors to see. He quotes Chishu Ryu referring to Ozu, "Sometimes he acted out the role himself." The two directors, Ozu and Lubitsch, shared a common directing method--they were both extremely fastidious about the scene being acted out exactly as they envisioned it in their mind.
Paul, William. "The Purest Style." Ernst Lubitsch's American Comedy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983. 19-33.
In this section, Paul describes Lubitsch's style by focusing mainly upon his film Trouble in Paradise, in which "style is felt as an essential part of the dramatic experience, as compelling in tis surprises as the very storyline itself."
Paul's analysis of Lubitsch's film style points out many similarities to Ozu's film style, though he does not mention Ozu in his text. He mentions that Lubitsch's films operated mostly "in the elliptical presentation of time and space," a strategy Ozu favored. Ozu was known for omitting any plot details that were not absolutely necessary and for allowing his audience to piece together what happened through the internal logic in the film. According to Paul, Lubitsch does the same in his films. Lubitsch also prefers "showing rather than telling" like Ozu, who relies more on visual storytelling than verbal. Paul also places Lubitsch's individualist, anarchist films in context of the social reality of America in the 1930s and states that his fragmenting style helps reinforce the individualist message. Ozu's film, Tokyo Chorus, trades off being both a light comedy and a social commentary. The two moods--one of lighthearted family sentiment and the other of more serious financial struggle felt by much of the lower middle class--are woven together seamlessly, often occurring simultaneously in the same scene. Ozu may or may not have been influenced by Lubitsch's tendency toward depicting a social drama without making it too heavy, but he certainly borrowed or shared Lubitsch's ideas of omitting details in his storytelling.
Bordwell, David. "Time in the Classical Film." The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. 42-49.
In this book section, Bordwell describes how time is represented in classical Hollywood cinema. He discusses temporal order, flashbacks, deadlines, transitions, diegetic music (in sound film), and crosscutting.
We know that later in his career, Ozu eliminated fades and dissolves, opting instead to use only the simple straight cut between scenes. However, Tokyo Chorus includes fades to transition between scenes. For example, there is a fade-out after the family plays the game resembling patty-cake, transitioning into the scene in front of the employment office, with a tracking shot of a row of unemployed men sitting on the curb. In classical Hollywood, "from 1918 to 1921, fade-ins and -outs...were the most common optical transtions between scenes" and "in the sound era, fades and dissolves were the most common signs of temporal ellipsis." Though Ozu later abandoned the use of such transitions, he was experimenting with aspects of the classical Hollywood style in his early films. The concept of the "deadline" is also explained and described as "one of the most characteristic marks of Hollywood dramaturgy." However, as Bordwell states, "Ozu structures his films by repeated routins and cycles of family behavior," rejecting the Hollywood scheme of deadlines.
Schrader, Paul. "Ozu." Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1972. 15-56.
This section discusses, as the book title implies, Yasujiro Ozu's transcendental style. Schrader begins by placing Ozu in the context of Japanese culture, one that is more prone to transcendentalism than other, Western, cultures. He goes on to describe Ozu's style, both in his early works and his later ones. Schrader discusses the Zen culture and explains its influence on Ozu's films, then relates the transcendental style to the Zen culture. Schrader also makes comparisons between Ozu's personal life and his on-screen characters, and he presents the question of how Ozu's personality was representative of the Zen culture.
While the section mostly discussed Ozu's mature style in later films, it offers insight into his earlier films as well. Schrader briefly discusses the shomin genre, which is "a genre of melodrama and light comedy [that] originated in the later 1920s and early 30s, only after the Japanese middle class had become sufficiently entraenched to laugh at itself." Schrader also parallels the tensions within Ozu's films between parents and children to those of the greater Japanese culture as a whole facing conflict between traditional values and more Western values. Tokyo Chorus is clearly classifiable as a shomin film and Schrader's view of the family tensions in Ozu's films prompts one to view Ozu's films as more self-referential.
Bordwell, David. "Visual Style in Japanese Cinema, 1925-1945." Film History 7.1 (1995): 5-31.
Bordwell explores the visual styles of Japanese cinema during 1925-1945 by looking at the chombara style, piecemeal découpage, and the pictorialist approach. He also analyzes the Japanese cinema in respect to the Westernization that was going on in Japan at the time and compares the styles and techniques used by Japanese filmmakers to those used in Hollywood at the time.
In his article, Bordwell explains that Japanese was very similar to Western cinema in that "American staging and shooting techniques [were] basic to Japanese filmmaking." But rather than copy the Hollywood style completely, Japanese filmmakers adopted a style that "[resembled] the 'primitive' cinema of the West: straight-on long shots." Ozu's fixed camera position may have its roots in "primitive" Hollywood, but it seems that so did the other influential Japanese directors. Bordwell's article also reveals that Ozu's style of filming a montage of unidentified body parts rather than the entire person is not his original invention. Bordwell calls this style "piecemeal découpage" and he explains that it was modeled--by Shochiku's studio in Kamata--on Charlie Chaplin's Woman of Paris (1923) and Ernst Lubitsch's The Marriage Circle (1924). Again, though perhaps indirectly, we see the influence that Lubitsch had on Ozu's style. The way Bordwell characterizes Japanese film style at the time as "at once an assimilation of 'classical techniques seen in the West an an experimental impulse mediated by a self-conscious sense of 'Japaneseness' makes Ozu's films seem less pioneering and more adherent to the trends followed by his peer directors. However, Bordwell points out that "Ozu set himself rigorous constraints, virtually a set of private rules for staging and cutting [which] he then stretched, bent, or recast...creating in the process a rich, gamelike approach to film style." So, though many of Ozu's techniques--such as the static straight-on camera angle, the slower tempo, and the careful attention paid to the composition of a scene--shared by other Japanese directors rather than being unique to him, Ozu took these techniques to the next level, effectively creating his own signature style.
Wrigley, Nick. "Yasujiro Ozu." Senses of Cinema (2003). 29 Nov. 2008 <http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/ozu.html>.
This article was written one hundred years after the birthdate of Yasujiro Ozu. It gives a brief biographical background on the director, synopses and analyses of several of Ozu's films, and discusses Ozu's legacy. The bulk of the article is about Ozu's films.
The article presents some of Ozu's influences, including American films and in particular "those of Ernst Lubitsch" though "in other conversations, Ozu seems unwilling to admit influence." Wrigley includes a quote from Ozu that says "I formulated my own directing style in my own head, proceeding without any unnecessary imitation of others...for me there was no such thing as a teacher. I have relied entirely on my own strength." Though Ozu's statement may be true about his later films, I believe that his earlier films, prior to establishing his signature style in Tokyo Story (1953), demonstrate the influence Hollywood had on his films.
Bock, Audie. "Yasujiro Ozu." Japanese Film Directors. Kodansha International Ltd.: New York (1978): 69-98.
Bock describes Ozu's career chronologically, beginning with a short biography of his personal life, then the beginning of his career as an assistant to big Japanese directors, and then moving into analyses of the themes and style demonstrated in his films.
Bock reveals that Ozu "thought deeply about film grammar" and again brings up the quote in which Ozu claims not to have been influenced by anyone else. Beginning from the film I Was Born, But... (1932), one year after the making of Tokyo Chorus, Ozu starts to reject fade transitions, "finding them, like dissolves, not to be essentials of film grammar, but rather 'attributes of the camera.'" This section offered particular insight into the themes of Ozu's films, which concern matters of the family; as Bock states, "the core relationship among these ordinary people of the Ozu film is that between parent and child." Bock points out that Ozu's films were social-realist films, which is true also of the films in Hollywood at the time.
Geist, Kathe. "Yasujiro Ozu: Notes on a Retrospective." Film Quarterly 37.1 (1983): 2-9.
Geist analyzes the differences between Ozu's prewar and postwar films by looking at Ozu's camerawork in various film examples.
Geist points out that "in his prewar films Ozu used cinematic means to both tease his audience and create humor. A favorite device was to show some portion of a person's body without identifying the owner." Several years after the schoolyard drill scene in the beginning of Tokyo Chorus, we are only shown the hands of a man picking up a mirror. The audience may assume that it is Shinji, the main character introduced in the drill scene, but we are not sure until a couple scenes later when Shinji's face is shown as he ties his tie in the mirror. Geist also uses Tokyo Chorus specifically as an example of the montage Ozu uses to imply a sequence of events, showing "objects with or without unidentified hands or feet manipulating them...by way of teasing his audience." Classical Hollywood films also utilized the montage as a means of compressing a large passage of time into a shorter on-screen period. For example, the span of several years may be compressed into a few scenes with a montage of cycles of changing seasons. The montage Ozu uses in Tokyo Chorus is not to indicate a passage of a long period of time, but rather to tease his audience, as Geist puts it.
Richie, Donald. "Yasujiro Ozu: The Syntax of His Films." Film Quarterly 17.2 (1963-4): 11-16.
Richie analyzes in detail Ozu's syntax in his films through grammar, structure, editing, tempo, and scene. He compares Ozu to Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and Ingmar Bergman, contemporary film directors whose style is far from being the classical Hollywood style.
It is clear after reading this article that Ozu's later films completely break away from any Hollywood stereotypes. Richie states that Ozu avoids narratives and plots "because [the plot] is manipulated." This is true also of Tokyo Chorus, which chronicles a family's struggle in the years toward the end of the Depression, but never uses a plot. There are no compelling elements as you would see in a Hollywood film; the satisfaction from watching the film comes from witnessing the family emotions which are often understated and present only in the slight facial expressions exchanged between the parents. However, the distinct Ozu style that Richie refers to in this article is not entirely applicable to Tokyo Chorus, which is an earlier film in which Ozu was undoubtedly still trying out different techniques. He had already begun to keep most of his shots at the camera position "of a person seated upon tatami, his eyes about three feet from floor level" in Tokyo Chorus, but unlike in his later films, Ozu does utilize pans and fades, which he later considers "merely attributes of the camera." As Richie states, Ozu's cinematic syntax was discovered "through trial and error" and it is evident that Tokyo Chorus was one of Ozu's trials in which he was still experimenting with techniques and styles similar to those seen in Hollywood that he would later reject as he came into his own individual style.