Which film director do you admire most

Japanese director admired all over the world: Yasujirô Ozu film show

Cinema about life itself: Until February 7th, the Austrian Film Museum is showing the complete works of one of the greatest directors.

The most Japanese of all directors: This attribution can be found in almost every text about Yasujirô Ozu. His film work seems to be controlled by Zen wisdom: It rests in itself, exudes unusual strength and self-assurance. The stories of Ozu, who was born in Tokyo in 1903, mostly revolve around the relationships and conflict situations between the generations: It's about tradition and renewal, above all about what is called “mono no aware” in Japan - an awareness of the volatility of all things. Just as Ozu has been adored by directors like Jim Jarmusch or Wim Wenders for decades, one would think that he was born on a pedestal.

In the Shochiku studio, the young Ozu didn't want to work for “serious” directors out of laziness, but for Tadamoto Okubo, the director of western-influenced “Nansensu” farces. Ozu pays homage to Hollywood in his early work: posters by the comedian Harold Lloyd hang in the background, and many things also remind of Ernst Lubitsch. Ozu's famous style only emerged over the years. He perfected it at the end of the 1940s and is celebrating his greatest successes: genre forms and plot threads have faded into the background in favor of unfashionable, elliptical structures.


A "tofu manufacturer" who likes to drink

The Reise nach Tokyo (1951) is seen by many as the apotheosis of his work: a formally strict film, balanced with precision and pedantry typical of Ozu, about the inevitability of progress in life. The director meets his characters at eye level (provided they kneel on a tatami mat), lets them talk and experience - everything that seems natural and yet so ephemeral. Ozu likes to and often omits important turns of action, dramatic moments: late spring (1949) revolves around the wedding of a young woman, but the ceremony cannot be seen.

Ozu is about life itself. That shakes especially in times of rest: looks, gestures, silence. Ozu couldn't do anything with his idolization; he compared his directing skills to tofu production. On his 60th birthday he succumbed to cancer. His cinema, long considered too Japanese for the West, became known there and soon revered. His grave is a place of pilgrimage for directors and cinephiles, many leave alcohol there: Ozu drank often and gladly, especially with his co-author Kôgo Noda: the duo measured the progress of the script in emptied sake bottles. mak

("Die Presse", print edition, January 22, 2011)