Monday, July 4, 2011

#84: Good Morning

(Yasujiro Ozu, 1959)

A few months ago I was looking through the (still long and very intimidating) list of films I had yet to watch and settled in on the Ozu films to come. At the time, I had yet to see the diptych that makes up Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu, and the director's work still seemed disconcertingly foreign to me. In this context, Good Morning stood out as a different kind of Ozu film, one I might even be able to enjoy. These days, my appreciation of Ozu's signature style has improved greatly, and I ironically longed for the subtle and deep rhythms of his earlier works while watching Good Morning.

That's not to say there aren't signature Ozu moments in the film. The plot - in which a boy and his younger brother decide to forgo speaking until their parents get a television set - is simple enough that the movie exists virtually on slight social cues and the minutiae of everyday life alone. The back-and-forth gossip of the middle-class housewives is both entirely recognizable in Western suburban culture of the time and oddly political - it doesn't feel too far from the machinations behind the plot of The Wire, oddly enough - which might just be a different way of saying the motivations feel realistic instead of forced, natural rather than dramatic.

Of course, there aren't many Ozu films centered around fart jokes. Even aside from the farting, Good Morning is Ozu's most Western film of the handful I've seen to date - it's certainly the only one that could be transferred to a suburban US setting without substantial changes. Oddly enough, it's the first Ozu film Criterion released on DVD, way back in 2000. It's a good entry point for Ozu's work, but it's somewhat lacking for the budding Ozu fan who needs a hit, and it's far from his best work.

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