Yasujiro Ozu

Yasujiro Ozu was a Japanese film director and screenwriter, beginning his career during the era of silent films. Ozu made a total of fifty-three films: twenty-six in his first five years as a director, and all but three for the Shochiku studio. Ozu was born in the Fukagawa district of Tokyo, the second son of five brothers and sisters. Ozu entered the Shochiku Film Company as an assistant in the cinematography department in 1923, against the wishes of his father. In 1927, two years after Ozu enlisted in the military service, he was promoted to director in the ‘Jidaigeki’ department, directing his first film, Sword of Penitence, unfortunately now lost. Ozu’s film was dramatized by Kogo Noda, who would become his co-writer for the rest of Ozu’s career. In 1932, his I Was Born, But…was highly received by movie critics, finally winning Ozu wide acclaim. Like the rest of Japan’s cinema industry, Ozu was slow to switch to the production of talkies: his first film with a dialogue sound-track was The Only Son in 1936, five years after Japan’s first talking film. On September 1937 the thirty-four-year-old Ozu was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army, spending two years in China in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Ozu returned to Japan in February 1946, and moved back in with his mother, immediately reporting for work at the Ofuna studios. Ozu’s Post War films were most favorably received, especially his so-called ‘Noriko trilogy’ (starring actress Setsuko Hara) of Late Spring (1949), Early Summer (1951), and Tokyo Story (1953). These three films were followed by his first movie in colour, Floating Weeds, (1959) and An Autumn Afteroon (1962), which ended up being his final film. Marriage, domestic family life, growing old and the changes in relationships between the generations, are among the poignant and universal themes throughout Ozu’s work. Because he was considered too Japanese for export, most of Ozu’s films remained unknown abroad, only finally being seen outside of Japan after his death. Every single shot in a Ozu film has an intended composition, as shots were low and stationary, with a very simplistic visual strategy. He would place the camera usually three feet above the floor, below the eye level of the actors, almost never moving it. Ozu’s films also consist of several cutaways and transitions to dramatic action, presenting a series of ‘pillow shots’ of the city with smoke, banners in the wind, clouds, empty streets, small architectural details, and clothes hanging on a line. The pacing in his stories are slow, while Ozu makes great use of ellipsis, having important events often not shown on-screen and only slightly revealed later through dialogue. Known for his drinking, Ozu and Noda would measure the progression of their scripts by how many bottles of sake they had drunk. Ozu remained single throughout his life and lived with his mother until she died, less than two years before his own death from cancer on his 60th birthday.

Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Yasujiro Ozu

Floating Weeds (1959)

Everyone understands what it is like to have a family. Yasujiro Ozu was a man whose films made you feel what it’s like to be part of a family. Most of his films focus on domestic family life and how changes within that family change relationships between each other forever. Film critic Roger Ebert once stated, […]


Late Spring (1949)

I find it sad that Americans care nothing for Japanese poetry and paintings, little for classic Japanese films and way too much for Japanese cartoons; because Yasujiro Ozu is a Japanese director (who for a while was considered too Japanese) who can give a person so much insight on the simple lessons on life, love and family. Yasujiro Ozu’s […]


Tokyo Story (1953)

  Film critic Roger Ebert once stated, “Sooner or later, everyone who loves movies comes to Ozu.” Director Yasujirô Ozu has created some of the most gentle and poignant stories I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing within the cinema, such as the universal themes of family, growing old and the acceptance of change; and Tokyo Story is […]