I had to order this film which is part of the reason there has been a gap in time since I last posted in this series.
I would classify Walk Cheerfully as an Ozu gangster film or an Ozu noir. Before this viewing I never even knew the director dabbled in the genre. It is a little like seeing Dylan do electronica, a bit shocking and not fully satisfying. It is actually a place where Ozu's later, famous style of slowness and emotional heft could have been quite comfortably worked in. Other extraordinary cinema stylists have certainly flourished in similar worlds, Leone with Once Upon a Time in America, Coppola's Godfather films and the list goes on and on. But I do not think Ozu had found his exact voice yet and for the most part this work comes off as a pretty by the numbers entry in the genre.
However a couple of stylistic elements I would like to mention. Including the opening shot, Ozu surprises with a few pretty complex camera movements, particularly crane and tracking shots, neither of which will show up very much in his later work. There is also a shot framed with substantial foreground and background action, something I will be curious to see if Ozu returns to in later films. When done in a subtle manner like Ozu does here, it certainly feels at home in the naturalistic spaces Ozu likes to exist in.
Is it merely a genre film? Is there not anything that makes it recognizable as the genre work of one of the greatest filmmakers the medium has ever known? Perhaps. There is both a playfulness and a deep emotionality Ozu is able to create in the final few frames that is trenchant and leaves us feeling this work is perhaps at least a little more personal than we had been led to believe.
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