13 December 2003 | alsolikelife
Yasujiro von Sternberg
Josef von Sternberg doesn't get as much mention as Frank Borzage or Ernst Lubitsch as an early Ozu influence, but those familiar with the dense arrangement of objects onscreen in Sternberg films may see the resemblance in both early and late Ozu films. This moody, expressionist pre-noir potboiler exhibits plenty of inspired clutter (most memorably the RCA Victor dog) and stylistic fluorishes (tracking shots, pull shots, and memorable use of shadow) as it tells the story of a gangster and his good-girl-gone-bad moll (Kinuyo Tanaka) as they experience an spiritual awakening through the good graces of an innocent girl. Redemption seems to be a recurring motif in Ozu's gangster movies (WALK CHEEFULLY, THAT NIGHT'S WIFE), and one wonders if bad guy heroes turning themselves in is a convention of the genre or indicative of Ozu's feelings about the criminal life he was assigned to depict. Whatever the case, the climax (involving the single gunshot fired in the entire existing Ozu canon) is as suspenseful and emotionally powerful as anything Ozu filmed.