19 March 2020 | boblipton
Variations On A Theme
Ozu's stock company runs through variations on their unhappy yet loyal relationships to each other: Chishû Ryû as the father who tried his best and failed; Setsuko Hara as the seemingly obedient daughter, and so forth; the middle class home; the little bar around the office. It's all there and all as familiar as the nail's level view -- a bent-down nail, because the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
We're told that Ozu is very Japanese and I wouldn't understand, but I find his world very familiar, even if everyone speaks Japanese. Growing up, I didn't understand Yiddish -- I still don't -- but my parents and uncles and aunts did and held conversation in it when they didn't want us to understand. Sometimes the discussions would escalate to shouting, and when I would ask what was going on, I would be told "You wouldn't understand." I understood they were unhappy, and for a child, there's nothing more frightening.
So that's what Ozu seems like to me: the same people, the same problems, the same language so I wouldn't understand -- but with subtitles. With the same cast, just like my family. As Wayne said to Howard Hawks, this time, can I play the drunk?