In the Mood for Film Wisdom? Spend 20 Minutes with Yasujirô Ozu or Paul Thomas Anderson

Yasujirô Ozu / Paul Thomas Anderson

Whether it's the Japanese familial cinema of Ozu or PTA's American slow burn, here's a closer look at the work of these incredible directors.

Ozu

Lewis Bond's essay, which cuts together footage from over 20 Ozu films, gives a good overview and analysis about Ozu's static camera, his obsession with frames, and transient editing style. Warning: If you haven't any of Ozu's work, this overview might spoil some of the fun of discovering him. You've been warned.

Takeaways from the essay:

  • Composition: Ozu is only interested in what is inside the frame, and will often highlight this by framing his subjects within frames (doorways, nature, foreground).
  • The Tatami Shot: A static, low angle and distant shot, replicating the viewpoint of someone sitting on a Tatami mat. This plus a 50mm (that mimics the human eye) which usually is associated with audience detachment, but instead it makes Ozu's films feel conscious and intentional.
  • A blurring of subjective and objective: By maintaining both a closeness and a distance to his subjects, Ozu straddles the line between objectivity and subjectivity. This is also magnified by that fact that there usually isn't just one hero in the film, but many characters to keep track of.
  • POV: Ozu's version of POV shots (arguably the most subjective type of shot) involves intentionally crossing the 180° line, so you get actors in single shots looking almost directly into the lens when talking to each other.
  • Elliptical Editing: Ozu uses edits as ellipsis to heighten the impermanence and transitory nature of life. He will also regularly leave out scenes that otherwise seem important. Mono no aware = The Pathos of Things; a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence and the sadness felt about the reality of life.
  • Continuous action: Ozu often shows continuous action in real time, even a simple action of someone leaving a room and entering another may require several edits.
  • Transitions: When using shots of empty rooms, cityscapes, or exteriors used to pass time, no shot lasts longer than another.

Paul Thomas Anderson

Filmmaker Meredith Danluck sits down with Anderson to talks about adapting Inherent Vice (a film we haven't talked about enough here at NFS) from the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel.

Takeaways:

On Following Plot

I don't know how I would react to this movie if I hadn't made it. I do get hung up sometimes trying to follow what the people are saying and I'm never any good at it. I usually just give up and wait until the next pretty girl shows up or the next funny thing happens. I think you're meant to go through it like Doc: Meeting one character that's giving you a massive amount of information, meeting somebody else that just contradicts that, meeting somebody else who verifies the contradiction while in fact reinforcing the first thing you heard. Spiraling you around and getting you into a paranoid frenzy, but all the while it's right under your nose. None of it's actually that convoluted.

On Finding a Scene

The whole movie is kinda boring, it's just people talking in rooms. And that has its own energy. If you have a scene with 2 actors in it, [sometimes] it starts as one thing and it ends up at something else. I spent this whole morning trying to do this [scene] in this traditional way and it just doesn't feel right. It was very unsatisfying and something was still nagging at me and it was lunchtime — and then there was this park bench. So it was like: let's set up some dolly track and do it at this park bench, and it was one of those great moments where you kinda get lucky because you get sick of yourself. It's a horrible feeling. At its best you can recover and get something from that.

On Context Defining Meaning

What did you have for breakfast? Did you get in a fight with your boyfriend before you came? Was there traffic? That's what's great about relationships with films: they're movable. They're different things all the time. Did you see it in the theatre, did you watch it on your phone? Did you see it on a plane? If you saw it on a plane chances are you're gonna love it — 40,000 feet in the air any movie is a good movie. What the book was about to me was how much we can miss people. I can say that about somebody else's work, but it's one of those things I do think it's about. As it can apply to people or the past in general.

On the Nobility of being an Actor

The old fashioned casting process [is] always the exciting thing, when you meet actors that are able to do it professionally. To be able to meet a lot of those people and work with them. Having a career as an actor is a very noble thing, it's nice work if you can get it. I hope my kids want to be actors, it's a hard business but a good business. If you have to do it, you have to do it, and it beats the alternative, I guess.

On Bad Days & Good Days

There can be times when it can be a drag, or things aren't working, or you work too many hours, or you're up too late, or you're running out of ideas — and there are times when you get lucky and something goes good. It's this junkie mentality that you go through a couple days and you're not getting anything, then you get something that's fun and inspiring and everyone is clicking again. Those moments just feed you and sustain you through the unfun times, because you're waiting for that next hit again, the one that really feels good and makes things come alive. On a movie you're gonna have bad days, if you shoot 60 days they're not all gonna be winners, there's a lot of stinky days. Just like any team, you're all working together. When you get something good, we'll ride a wave of enthusiasm and we'll always crash that wave into something that won't work. Then you just claw your way back up again and hopefully you cut out all the parts that don't work so it appears that we knew what we were doing.     

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I need to see an Ozu film!

December 13, 2015 at 8:26PM

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Martin
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