Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Mother Should be Loved (1934)

Apparently the film is missing its first and last reels.  But though compromised it still provides a number of interesting details about Ozu and his evolving style.

For the first time there are a number of long takes, the kind of which Ozu would become identified with in his later work.  There are also a number of long shots where it seems clear that Ozu is confident in taking a distant, observational vantage point.  The tatami shot seems more prevalent and more exaggerated than ever.  And his penchant for the ellipsis to portray the passage of time is more evident than it has been to date.  

Once again we find a number of references to film.  We see a poster for a Joan Crawford movie as well as a poster for Duvivier’s Poil de carotte.  Also interesting to note is a scene towards the end when Ozu employs a series of different tracking shots, one a long horizontal shot and another a backwards tracking movement.

Thematically the film along with I Was A Born, But… is Ozu’s strongest statement yet on the importance of the family bond.  In a way not dissimilar from the staggering footage of the father being mocked in I Was A Born, But…, Ozu finds a masterful way to communicate the power of family.  Here it comes from a housekeeper in a brothel explaining that if her bond with her son were stronger, she would never find herself in her current employ.

Lastly, as we will later find scattered throughout the work of another transcendental filmmaker, Robert Bresson, I was struck by Ozu’s use of empty frames.  I don’t know if he got the idea from Lang’s M, which came out only a couple of years before this film.  But the choice would become a signature aspect of the Bresson style and perhaps of the Ozu style which I will keep a watchful eye on as I continue to move forward through his work.

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