Monday, November 22, 2010

Passing Fancy


Conservative Anarchy


Dekigokoro [Passing Fancy] by Yasujirô Ozu, 1933:



Tomio Aoki, the child who never ages / It's an unbelievable world: Kihachi (Takeshi Sakamoto) plunges his fingers into a strewn wad of soap? toothpaste? to finger-brush his teeth then dips into a pail of water to gargle and rinse and wash his face / It's common and easy to underestimate Ozu, proclaiming him simply to be one of the world's finest directors, as he's even better than that — Sakamoto brushes his head almost unnoticeably against a ceiling ornament, there's a cut here — reverse-angle: precisely picked up from that action, ornament sway / Tomio's head brushes under the hem of the tapestry moments later / Cut not just on action, but on a smile / The legend of Choemon and Ohan as recounted in Obi-ya — Choemon's 14-year-old-girl-transgression, and Ohan's river suicide after he abandons her, and Choemon's reinstatement with his wife / Too early too late / Intertitle: "BUT THE WORLD WE LIVE IN IS A CAPRICIOUS PLACE — " / Aoki and Hideo Sugawara, the two brothers of A Picture-Book for Grown-Ups: I Was Born, But... now face off as teaser and target, another of the constant confrontations in silent Ozu to take place in daylight under the open sky / A day that passes into night: the brilliant transition shot of Tomio chewing the leaves — the light dimming against the jacket hooks (which contain two gloves, echoing Tomio's joke about: why does a hand have five fingers? — because if it only had four there'd be an extra finger on a glove) before the bulb in the background snaps on — close-up of bulb — cut to shot of Tomio passed out among the leaves — Kihachi returned home drunk / Child's sickness, axiom of early Ozu — sickness from sweets gives onto a full-blown ailment (Tomio who began the film eye-patch sick) / The father worries he may have to hold a funeral, fingering his purse — learning something of his son's school life from the small invalid's chat with a visiting schoolfriend / The doctor says it's "acute enteritis" (or, an inflamed small intestine) / A father oblivious to and ashamed of his lack of education, rudiments of social intelligence / Harue (Nobuko Fushimi) who offers to pay the 50-ryô doctor's bill is the one Sakamoto wants but who will not reciprocate, who loves his best friend Jirô (Den Obinata) who in turn will not reciprocate, calls Harue "homely" in front of Kihachi out of deference to his feelings — the girl whose quasi-madame Kihachi promises to convince Jirô to marry her / Jirô understands Harue's hinting at "raising" the money through prostitution / He rebukes her / Suggests he loves her after all / He borrows money from a barber / Will make it up with labor in Hokkaido / Kihachi knocks Jirô out — says he'll go to Hokkaido and work to repay it — abandoning Tomio in the process / The barber says don't worry about it / Kihachi replies the same way he did to Harue's initial offer — remarking the barber "says such amazing things!" / He heads off / Five, ten, fifteen seconds of screen-time for Chishû Ryû (tramp on the ship departing to Hokkaido) / Kihachi jumps ship at the end, second thoughts / This man bobbing in the water recalling to mind at the moment one of his child's silly jokes / Not the most elegant of Ozu's films, but a crazy enough ending for the pace of caprices, for the film built out of passing fancies, not-quite-dictated by some Boudu-man

Dekigokoro [Passing Fancy] by Yasujirô Ozu, 1933:










Previous pieces on Ozu at Cinemasparagus:

A Straightforward Brat

Friends Fighting Japanese-Style

Tokyo Chorus

A Picture-Book for Grown-Ups: I Was Born, But...

Where Have the Dreams of Youth All Gone?


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