Eclipse Series 3: Late Ozu

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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Michael Kerpan
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#176 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jun 30, 2007 5:18 pm

My wife and I felt it really made a huge difference to see Ozu on the big screen -- with an audience (which contained a fair number of Japanese members). I was a bit surprised -- as I would have thought Ozu would scale equally well to television viewing.

It might be noted, however, that many of the Ozu premieres at our home had an audience of five. On some films we watched at home, we needed to stop the video until laughter could subside (e.g. the bar scene in Autumn Afternoon -- with Chishu Ryu, Daisuke Kato and Kyoko Kishida).

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#177 Post by Ornette » Sun Jul 01, 2007 11:28 pm

My Man Godfrey wrote:I think, Ornette, that you may have misread one part of my post. I wasn't using "revelation" in the sense of a plot twist; I meant "revelatory" in a broader way.
Never mind about the "revelation" part in my post -- if plot twists were really your 'thang', you wouldn't even have found this forum in the first place (and needless to say, even bought the Ozu box set) -- it was just me accidentally trying to simplify things. Sorry about that -- will probably happen again.

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#178 Post by ToKem » Mon Jul 02, 2007 11:56 am

My Man Godfrey wrote: In a way, Ozu's films are like the stories of John Cheever, in which we glean almost everything about the characters by observing their "public selves." (In many of Cheever's stories, the omniscient narrator will refer to the protagonist as, e.g., "Mrs. Wilson" -- keeping the characters so much at arms-length that we aren't even put on a first-name basis.) With the Ozu films, I wanted, as I sometimes want when I'm reading Cheever, to know more about the private selves of these characters.

I like the observation, it seems very adequate (although I don't know Cheever). Even though Ozu's films are about personal experiences, they way these films express and communicate them has a form which could be considered ‘objective'. In stead of a direct focus on inner feelings and thoughts, Ozu presents us another picture: the general and dynamic context in which these ‘subjective' instances have their place (and eventually everything individual or particular is housed). What you get to see as a viewer, is a world that is ordered according to its own 'logic', a world in which objects and people coexist naturally. A shot of a tea kettle in stead of a point of view shot, a shot of a woman pondering in stead of a 'rosebud'.

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#179 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Mon Jul 02, 2007 6:45 pm

I love Ozu best in his outdoor scenes. In these later films, the office and bar sets strike me as so phony looking. My favorite scene in Equinox Flower is the one by the lake, the two daughters canoeing, waving to their parents, the mother reminiscing nostalgically about the togetherness they felt during the War years. Father dismisses such talk, says those years were horrible - " too many stupid people strutting around". Unfortunately, that's about all the clarity he possesses. His "inconsistencies" are about as extreme as an intelligent person can muster.

I agree with a previous poster that the apartment scene btween the older daughter and her fiance is about as lifeless and passion free as a young couple facing marraige can muster. Fortunately, the younger daughter, who may have wandered off a Japanese/Gidget film set, delights with her uninhibited comments on her father's boorish behavior. Part of the problem I have with some Ozu movies, is how so much time is spent ruminating and brooding, eyes cast downward. The younger daughter here, Goldfish in Early Spring and the young girl who chastises the three conniving slugs in Late Autumn are, like his outdoor scenes such breaths of fresh air.

I'm holdiing off on re-viewing Late Autumn for awhile and instead watched Floating Weeds, chronologically falling somewhere in the middle of the 5 box set. I adore this film, the sunny colors, the perfect casting (except for the nephew/son who isn't quite bad enough to sink his difficult scenes). There is a scene in the film that I admire as much as any in Ozu. Its the one where the Master has a vicious argument with his companion/star. A driving rainstorm separates them as each pace angrily on their side of the street. Full of passion, its a scene in which Ozu lets out all the restraints. Someday, I will be brave and watch the silent version of this great movie

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#180 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:17 pm

The son in "Floating Weeds" turns in decent performances in Ichikawa's "Crowded Streetcar" and Masumura's "Giants and Toys". He does come across as a bit stilted in FW -- perhaps that's what Ozu wanted?

The lack of clarity (and consistency) of the father in "Equinox Flower" is _definitely_ intended. He is not supposed to be warm and fuzzy -- like Chishu Ryu. There was a reason for Ozu's casting someone else in this role in this film.

I wonder if the passionless-ness you decry (between the daughter in EF and her fiance) is not simply a portrayal of rather normal diffidence -- for people of that class in that situation at that time in that place? Ozu almost always got the performances he wanted -- so one usually has to ask why did he choose to act in a certain fashion.

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#181 Post by King of Kong » Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:53 pm

Just finished watching Tokyo Twilight. I had previously thought End of Summer was Ozu's bleakest offering, but this earlier film makes the later one seem chirpy by comparison. Unwanted pregnancy, abortion, suicide, absent parents making surprise reappearances, troubled marriages - Ozu veers dangerously close to melodrama here, though, of course, this is Ozu, and though Tokyo Twilight does come across as more heavy-handed than some of his other family dramas, it thankfully stays clear of Hollywood melodrama. In a nutshell I enjoyed - and was moved by - the film, but found it lacked the subtlety of the director's best work (though the dialogue, cinematography and performances were uniformly excellent, as always).
Last edited by King of Kong on Mon Jul 02, 2007 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#182 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 02, 2007 8:12 pm

I don't think "End of summer" is especially bleak -- though the overbearing music (atypical of Ozu -- in the extreme at times) may mislead one into thinking this. Most of EoS is comic -- and the roguish patriarch at the center of the film is not viewed as a model by Ozu -- but as a near disastrous encumbrance. His passing on is met with considerable relief by much of the family (not that any of them wished him ill).

I think there is a lot more subtlety in "Tokyo Twilight" than one might guess from a single viewing. I have found it well worth repeated viewings -- it is one of my most watched Ozu films.

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#183 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Mon Jul 02, 2007 8:29 pm

Do you think Ozu might have thought himself something of a failure if it is true that it takes multiple viewings to fully grasp the depth of his sublety? I have a suspicion he might have been a much harsher critic of his own films than his modern day enthusiasts. He probably did not consider himself a genius, or that every intention that he had in a movie was necessarily succesful. After all, he was a commercial film director, who had to deal with studios and the demands of the marketplace. He wasn't making films for experts and academics.

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#184 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:29 pm

Mr Sheldrake wrote:Do you think Ozu might have thought himself something of a failure if it is true that it takes multiple viewings to fully grasp the depth of his sublety? I have a suspicion he might have been a much harsher critic of his own films than his modern day enthusiasts. He probably did not consider himself a genius, or that every intention that he had in a movie was necessarily succesful. After all, he was a commercial film director, who had to deal with studios and the demands of the marketplace. He wasn't making films for experts and academics.
What you are not taking into account is the divide between our contemporary Western culture and that of Ozu's Japan. Things that his audiences would have understood rather intuitively or taken for granted, we have to pay careful attention to -- and think about. We need to, as much as possible, re-create for ourselves (through conscious effort) some of the "environmental" awareness of that original audience. And that takes extra viewings (among other things).

Moreover, I think one can be sure that Ozu wanted his original audiences to pay close attention to what he was showing them. He definitely "demanded" more attentiveness than the average Japanese film maker. While he may have made his films for ordinary audiences -- he didn't cut them much slack or make things easy for them (unlike colleagues such as Kurosawa and KInoshita).

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#185 Post by skuhn8 » Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:13 am

Mr Sheldrake wrote:I loved the mother too. I also liked Goldfish, an interesting and well rounded character, full of life. My favorite scene is when she comes to the farewell party, after all, and shakes Sugiyama's hand.
I'm coming into this late as I just got my Late Ozu over the weekend and watched the first film, Early Spring, last night. I scanned the pages quickly for any reference to this film but found the above comment--it appears most of the other comments were dedicated to an overview of Ozu in general along with some discussion on the (mis)coloration of the color films in the set.

Early Spring was a delightful film and I agree with Mr Sheldrake that Goldfish was a wonderful character. I wish there was more of her in the film as she had a lot of spark.

My issue with Early Spring was--pettily enough--the length. I've come to understand that one doesn't watch Ozu expecting thrills and plot twists but 'the first act' seemed to drag out without really helping me get into the deeper nature of Sugiyama and his wife's situation. Later, when we find that they'd had and lost a child I got a lot more feel for the sadness of their plight but that in itself seemed almost included as a throwaway element. But as others have said, Ozu definitely rewards a second viewing, I suspect especially those with more 'western' expectations to appreciate the tender subtleties.

But when Sugi and Goldfish consummate their affair I had to laugh out loud at the cut to the fan shaking its head in approbation. Beautiful!

Not much of an assessment but I really want to hear how others view this one in comparison to his other works. And for those who are having a hard time getting into Ozu I'll give my experience. In a previous version of the forum I expressed my disappointment after watching Tokyo Story. I'd seen and enjoyed Good Morning as a delightful little film from a director that I had never heard of before, but after all the hype on Tokyo Story I expected so much more. I couldn't handle the static camera, the medium shots of people talking to the camera without really saying anything, at least nothing that I would expect given the situation they were in. Part of my problem was simply based on a misunderstanding of what Ozu was about (and forgive me for this feeble attempt at reducing him to something so simple): domestic dramas that aren't so much dramatic from a cinematic perspective but drama in a domestic sense. These are real problems that Japanese families were facing in the wake of the Economic Miracle and the erosion of many of the core values that the previous generation held dear and self-evident. Part of my problem also came from my using Kurosawa as a yardstick for evaluating films from other Japanese directors, which is of course unfair and quite stupid just as if I measured all American films against Scorcese films.

A couple years later I took another chance when I traded for Early Summer and that one sold me. I watched it twice in one weekend and think it's a masterpiece. But even last night when I was an hour into Early Spring I was asking myself if I was in the right mindset to appreciate it properly. Perseverence paid off.

P.S. In that previous forum I remember Michael Kerpan commenting to my criticism: "Well, skuhn8, you wouldn't enjoy watching films at my house then." I guess now I would, I'll bring the Sapporo?

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#186 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:24 am

skuhn8 wrote:A couple years later I took another chance when I traded for Early Summer and that one sold me. I watched it twice in one weekend and think it's a masterpiece. But even last night when I was an hour into Early Spring I was asking myself if I was in the right mindset to appreciate it properly. Perseverence paid off.
My feeling is that if someone doesn't find "Early Summer" appealing, their odds of liking anything else by Ozu (at that point in their film life) is low. That is why I almost always recommend this (possibly along with Floating Weeds) as the best introduction to Ozu.
skuhn8 wrote:But even last night when I was an hour into Early Spring I was asking myself if I was in the right mindset to appreciate it properly. Perseverence paid off.
Nothing in 50s Ozu (except "Tokyo Twilight) is remotely like "Ear;y Spring". If one has watched his 30s works, however, one might be better prepared for this. Nothing one "learns" in "Tokyo Story" or "Late Spring" or "Early Summer" helps too much in getting into the world of this more sober and earnest film. One has to re-tune and become acclimated to something different going on. I wonder if you will find the first hour more rewarding when you revisit this (when you don't have to do re-tuning on the fly)?
skuhn8 wrote:Early Spring was a delightful film and I agree with Mr Sheldrake that Goldfish was a wonderful character. I wish there was more of her in the film as she had a lot of spark.
"Delightful" is not the word I'd typically use to describe this -- though I really like the film quite a lot. My reaction to this is more complicated. I find it rather distressing (in a good way) and ultimately (though not unambiguously) hopeful. Sort of like real life.

It is important to recall that Chikage Awashima (the wife here) was as capable of being lively and sexy as Keiko Kishi (Goldfish). Did Ozu expect his audience to remember her typically more animated prior performances as they watched her become progressively more dispirited and emotiuonally drained in this? (FWIW -- both these ladies are STILL acting today).
skuhn8 wrote:Part of my problem also came from my using Kurosawa as a yardstick for evaluating films from other Japanese directors, which is of course unfair and quite stupid just as if I measured all American films against Scorcese films.
Part of my advantage when first encountering Ozu was that I didn't know squat about Asian cinema yet -- but did know I was fed up with (or just not attracted to) what Hollywood was typically offering.
skuhn8 wrote:P.S. In that previous forum I remember Michael Kerpan commenting to my criticism: "Well, skuhn8, you wouldn't enjoy watching films at my house then." I guess now I would, I'll bring the Sapporo?
Let me know if you're ever in the vicinity of Boston. Though these days you might be stuck with having to watch Imai or Uchida. (Which I assure you should not be a hardship -- despite their current obscurity in the West). ;~}

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#187 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jul 05, 2007 1:59 pm


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#188 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jul 06, 2007 8:48 am

colinr0380 wrote:DVD Verdict review
The review incidentally (accidentally?) brings up a point worth reflecting on.

Ozu made these films with (usually) a year's gap between them. That meant that each film had a year to sink in -- before one saw the next. And that one would be (hopefully) eager to see what permutations Ozu introduced in his next film.

Does one get a skewed perception if you watch these over the course of five days rather than over five years?

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#189 Post by ToKem » Fri Jul 06, 2007 11:55 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Does one get a skewed perception if you watch these over the course of five days rather than over five years?

Seeing five Ozu's, that you have never seen before, in five days, seems like an excess to me, bordering on madness. One of the dangers in having so many films, from different times and by different artists, at our immediate disposal (as we nowadays have), is that you are easily led to believe that al of these films are simply at hand, gathered together for you to pick from at your own free will. While in fact this me be true, I believe that films/artworks cannot be considered as absolutely equal to or interchangeable for each other. For a film to have full meaning and to have been truly understood, it has to be integrated into the continuity of our personal lifes. Going to the cinema every year to see the new Woody Allen is a completely different experience than pulling out Ozu's first color film from 1958 and ‘praising' it for its technical and stylistic novelties. Viewing a film at home or during a retrospective asks for a high(er) level of engagement with the film shown.

I don't think this in the first place implies that, as you say Michael, “we need to, as much as possible, re-create for ourselves (through conscious effort) some of the "environmental" awareness of that original audience.â€

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#190 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jul 06, 2007 12:24 pm

One also has to remember -- Ozu's films did not come out in a vacuum -- but as tiny droplets in one of the biggest floods of movie productivity anytime, anywhere.

One can actually see a sort of tag team relationship between some of Ozu's and Naruse's films. But there are also many hundreds of films by important colleagues of these two that are not accessible at all (though a comparative handful are available on expensive unsubbed DVDs). One cannot even begin to comprehend how his films fit in with other home dramas of that era. In any event, Ozu surely did not have to feed any audience desire for great novelty with his films -- because the market was awash with novelties already.

Rather than watching the Ozu box set (which finally arrived) I have been watching other 50s films from Japan for the last couple of weeks. And I must say that some utterly obscure films are proving to be quite splendid. See this.

(and this weeks menu so far has consisted of more Imai and Ichikawa).

How to fit even the relatively small amount I can round up together? Not likely to be an easy task. But it certainly is enjoyable.

BTW -- I agree that the personal context is equally important -- but right now I find it more interesting to explore Ozu's environment (and that of his audience).

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#191 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jul 06, 2007 12:49 pm

I feel a little nervous contributing my sophomoric efforts to such an excellent discussion on this thread!

At the very least I guess a new film each year shows a comfortable interaction between filmmakers, their studios and the expectations of their audience. They have to achieve a kind of success to be allowed to get into that routine - although routine has negative connotations, I don't necessarily think it always equates with ideas of complacency and just churning out another work with slight variations to fulfil a brief. Although I haven't seen much Ozu yet, and although the films I have seen work extremely well in isolation, it seems that the full force of his films come from the accumulation of details throughout all the films. From more tragic films such as Tokyo Story to outright comedies such as Good Morning, both work well in isolation but put together seem to show many different lifestyles and outlooks that different generations have and the problems that occur when different mores clash and attitudes and preconceptions are tested by events.

It feels like I will get more and more of a rounded portrait of life in that part of the world, at that time, with each film I see as the little details increase or a similar series of events unfolds from a different character's perspective, as well as each film getting beyond the cultural differences (once they have become familiar to the audience) in settings and interactions and illuminating some of the more universal truths in relationships between people that underly everything. Which is why I guess Ozu's films are so superficially similar on the surface - so the audience can pick up on the plot and characters and move beyond it to the real matters of interest as quickly as possible.

It makes me think of Ozu picking up a set of characterisations and with each new film turning them in his hand to see what happens if they are viewed from a new angle, or if this or that situation is dropped into the mix. I guess something similar is occuring with Woody Allen where each film is less interesting as a work in itself but more in the way that it is adding detail to his filmography as a whole (I think Ozu in the films I've seen so far has managed to balance the experience of an film individually with the experience of the film in context with his other work a little more successfully).

I guess people experience things differently while things are being released rather than when they look back to see the big picture after a career is over. Sadly I'm not sure how many people look at a director's whole career and try to see the themes running through it rather than just experiencing the film itself and nothing that surrounded it (I try to do both and just let the film speak for itself on a first or second viewing as a pure film experience and then later go through it comparing it to other films from that director, actor etc that I've seen as well as the other films that were released at around the same time to see where it fits in the larger picture), so perhaps there is a lack of appreciation of how the film fits in the director's filmography that can lead to them not being fully appreciated at the time in that sense, but more on how the film stands up on its own merits.

My guess is that studios like the 'new film from a succcessful director a year' method not for the 'enriching a director's themes' point of view but from the more ephemeral individual film point of view, so the latest Ozu (or the latest Carry On, the latest Bond, even the most recent latest Saw film) each year supercedes the last as the pinnacle of the series. There were probably other factors that made this important in that once a film was gone from theatres at that time its useful life had mostly come to an end without television screenings to keep the memory of a particular film alive, and so a new film would be wanted to put in the theaters the next year, maybe with some more advancements in technology or plotting to keep it fresh, while still letting the built-in audience from previous films know generally what pleasures they would receive from going to see the latest film by that director or in that series.

Now there seems to have been a move towards each individual picture being the best of a director's career, probably due to advertising pressures needing to make each film the best an audience has ever seen, that seems to put extra pressure on filmmakers to sum up all their thoughts and ideas on a subject in just the one enormous film (e.g. Tarantino) that will be the last word on the subject instead of tackling certain sections of their interests in various films throughout their career and then letting their entire body of work speak for itself in retrospect.

Michael, do you think that having such a huge amount of activity allowed Ozu to produce his films without the burden of having to add more 'dramatic' or 'action' elements as there were already many directors covering those bases? That this allowed Ozu to produce his quieter films at the 'eye of the storm', maybe because of the 'storm'?

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#192 Post by manicsounds » Fri Jul 06, 2007 11:48 pm

The Ozu boxset made me long for watching Sazae-San episodes on TV, unfortunately I work every Sunday, when it's on TV.....

The simplicity in Sazae-San is very much on the same wavelength as Ozu's world, without much of the very adult themes he sometimes uses. The 50's were great (in the world of fiction), werent they?

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#193 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:03 pm

colinr0380 wrote:Michael, do you think that having such a huge amount of activity allowed Ozu to produce his films without the burden of having to add more 'dramatic' or 'action' elements as there were already many directors covering those bases? That this allowed Ozu to produce his quieter films at the 'eye of the storm', maybe because of the 'storm'?
Not ignoring you -- but I will be gone all day today (starting soon). I'll think about your question.

Very thoughtful contribution. Thanks

The Eclipse DVD of "Equinox Flower" is very poor compared to the Shochiku DVD (and to the Eclipse version of "End of Summer", for that matter.

The Eclipse DVD has flickering and artifacts that don't exist on the Japanese DVD. For instance -- these are very noticeable at the beginning (in the sky above the train station). Also some bizarre color banding here and there. These defects have shown up when viewed on both our DVD player and on my computer. And the colors are overly garish, besides. ;~}

Decent subtitles, though....

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#194 Post by ToKem » Wed Aug 01, 2007 4:07 pm

I have just watched Tokyo Twilight again, this time from the Eclipse set. Thankfully the player that I use on my pc was able to de-interlace the film quite well, so it looked pretty good (although not as good as the Tartan disc). Thankfully as well that the great appreciation I have for this film has not decreased after having seen it again, that it was overwhelmingly confirmed. It may sound silly, but one of the things that caught my attention the most upon this viewing, is the final moment of a scene early in the film (around 19 min. or so), in which the father and his sister have lunch in a restaurant. On both the Tartan and the Panorama disc you can hear four curious, rhythmically ordered beeps, followed by the first of several intermediate shots (an image of a clock on a railway platform). Maybe this has already been mentioned or discussed before, these sounds anyhow puzzle me. Even though you can not seem to connect them to anything in the physical environment of the scene, somehow they have always made some kind of sense to me, even though I never tried to figure out in what way.

Since the sounds are NOT there on the Eclipse edition, the interesting thing is that I have probably taken a technical defect for an aesthetic aspect. I suppose Eclipse have either removed the sounds or have used a source without them. However, if it is not a technical defect (and the sounds were deleted unjustly), then I would like to know why Japanese restaurants or railway stations manifest such beeps, or why Ozu has put them there. It probably makes the most sense that they were not supposed to be in the film. But then still, when you DO hear them, they ARE supposed to be there. They seem so at place that I never even considered the possibility of them not supposing to be there.

All of this might be of minor importance to the film itself. It did however reveal a whole lot to me about how I experience Ozu. I have come to expect in his films a rich and honest view on the actual life's of people, and above or through that a view on the world as such, as a totality consisting of people, nature, history, etc., which is governed by a certain necessity. All I will say for now on this ‘metaphysical' aspect, is that I feel it very strong (ever since I started getting into these films). And this is probably why I could have accepted those sounds as part of the film: they accord with the intangible individuality of surrounding objects, with the mathematical concept of time imposed upon people, with the general fate to which humans are exposed, ..... Anyway, to limit my curiosity to the facts, has anybody else noticed these sounds (or has not) on other DVDs, or with projections? Or does anybody know what they are or what could have caused them (either technically or aesthetically speaking)?

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#195 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 01, 2007 10:54 pm

The weird noises are on The Japanese Shochiku DVD of "Tokyo Twilight". I think they must be a restoration artifact/error. I do have an old French video (SECAM) of this -- when i have time to re-connect our multi-system VHS I'll check this as well.

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#196 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:29 pm

Does anyone know what the color process was for the three color films on the set? Technicolor, Eastman color, etc.

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#197 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:46 pm

Agfacolor

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#198 Post by Japanophile » Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:18 pm

According to imdb, Late Autumn was shot in Eastmancolor.

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#199 Post by tavernier » Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:46 pm

I'd believe MK before imdb.

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#200 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 10, 2007 7:38 pm

Ozu wouldn't have been caught dead using Eastmancolor (or his own domestic Fujicolor). And he didn't care for earlier versions of Agfacolor. It was only when Agfacolor finally offered a color film he truly liked -- in the late 50s -- that he agreed to switch to color. (Richie talks about Ozu and Agfacolor in his book on Ozu).

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