Calligraphy and Propaganda

Chishu Ryu said “Ozu-san didn’t make any heroic movie during the war”. This is true. He did not make any combat films, heroic military action films nor pseudo-historical drama to support totalitarian political agenda. But it does not mean he was making films in vacuum. “I was born, but … (1932)” may seem the last place for anyone to find any war propaganda, but, remember, it was filmed in 1932, the year of Shanghai Incident. During the scene in the classroom, you can see a rather large frame of Japanese calligraphy on the wall. It says “Bakudan Sanyu-shi”, or “Three …

Another bus trip

Criterion released Hiroshi Shimizu’s prewar works, including “Mr. Thank You (有がとうさん)”. This is very exciting, since Hiroshi Shimizu, contemporary of Yasujiro Ozu, is not well-known even in Japan and this release will inspire many people to watch his films and enjoy his humor and relaxed atmosphere. “Mr. Thank You” is probably the most accessible to modern viewers, being a road movie in the countryside of prewar Japan. There is another movie on the bus by Shimizu in 1941, called “Akatsuki no gassho (暁の合唱)”. It is not a road movie like “Mr. Thank You” made five years earlier, but it tried …

There was a war…

One of the recent releases from Criterion Collection is “The Only Son/There Was a Father: Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu”, two of the Ozu films rarely seen by western audiences. “There was a Father” was released during the Pacific War, and whenever this film is discussed, its aspect as a war time propaganda is always a topic. There is a very good essay on the film by Tony Ryans, which discusses the ambiguity of the message in the film. It may seem strange by today’s standards, but this film was a propaganda. Office of Intelligence awarded this film as “People’s …