Ozu and two gentlemen from I WAS BORN, BUT… (1932)

I posted some photographs of directors and one young actress from prewar Japanese cinema magazines in the past weeks. Today, I post three daring photographs of Yasujiro Ozu, to commemorate his 110th anniversary.

The first photograph is from 1932. This was taken during the shooting of I WAS BORN, BUT … (1932), the film I consider the best among his extant silent works. According to the caption, these two kids had fallen ill during the shooting of the film previous year, and the production had to be stopped. Now, apparently these rascals were feeling better (is that a cigarette?) and Ozu was getting ready to shoot these pivotal scenes near the railroad. This photograph was on the March 21 issue of Kinema Junpo. The fuse of war was ignited in January in Shanghai and its flashes flew all the way to the theater screens as the film frames flickered.

Ozu was drafted to Army twice. From 1937 to 1939, he was dragged around in China, as a soldier in a chemical weapon unit. He was discharged in June 1939, and this photograph was taken upon his return to the good old Shochiku Studio in July. The guy greeting him is Yasujiro Shimazu. A man must have experienced so much when his face shows a twinkle of relief but carved with unspeakable.

Two Yasujiros

In the photo below, the guy in the center is not Ryu Chishu from TOKYO STORY (1951), but cunning resemblance tells us that his style grew out of himself. Ozu’s colleagues, film critics and publishers threw a welcome-back party in a typical Ozu setting with Sushi and beer. Lots of beer. Several months after this photo, Ozu’s script, HE GOES TO NANKING, was rejected by the Censorship Office. There was a scene in the script that a man is to go to the war and his last supper at home was Ochazuke (green tea over rice). They didn’t like it. The Censorship Officer told Ozu that this guy’s family should send him off with more ceremonial meals, like Sekihan. When idiocy is given a voice, it shrieks triumphs of obscenity.


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