BFI: 32 Ozu Films

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#826 Post by FilmSnob » Fri May 04, 2018 3:09 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Finally got around to starting the set. The fragments of Straightforward Boy are a hoot. And I knew I loved Walk Cheerfully, but I had forgotten just how MUCH I love this remarkably visually playful (and charming) film.
I just started watching all early Ozu films. A Straightforward Boy did not work for me at all. After the opening title card, I didn't laugh once. Walk Cheerfully however was a beautiful, thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly likeable film. I almost cried during the opening dolly shot, and I almost cried again during the last scenes, for two entirely different reasons.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#827 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri May 04, 2018 4:07 pm

Walk Cheerfully is one of those Ozu silents that has a lot of "implied sound track" -- which is sometimes drowned out by any musical score that might be applied. ;-)

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#828 Post by FilmSnob » Sun May 06, 2018 2:44 am

I've now seen Tokyo Story, Late Spring, and everything which survives up to I Flunked, But ... I wrote a review for Walk Cheerfully, an early Ozu silent film I very much enjoyed.

Thank you Criterion, FilmStruck, BFI, everyone who helped to make these fragile films available to distant foreigners like me!

Walk Cheerfully (1930)

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Kenji Koyama, a.k.a Ken the Knife, leads a small-time band of crooks and thugs in this highly stylized, romantic and unabashedly sentimental gangster film. The story crafted by Hiroshi Shimizu, a fellow director and Ozu's good friend, plays out as the very definition of a morality tale: the title was inspired by Quaker founder George Fox's famous quote: "Walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone, that your carriage and your life may preach among all sorts of peoples, and to them...whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you."

In other words, Ken has a crisis of conscience. He's a feared boxer who commands criminal respect through superior intellect and brute force. He and his gang find creative ways to rob people-- and if necessary-- beat them up. Eventually, he falls in love with one of his targets, a kind and beautiful "good" girl named Yasue, who is thought to be rich, but turns out her family doesn't have any money at all. They develop a romance, his girlfriend gets jealous, etc. but when Yasue finds out about Ken's life of crime, she refuses to see him again. Point blank.

Can "The Knife" escape his past and become a changed man? Does he really want to? You'll have to watch the movie and find out.

Personally, I loved this film.

There will undoubtedly be some critics out there who call it mindless, sentimental rubbish, or "not essential Ozu". It's a facsimile film made by a 26 year old man who was (at that age) infatuated with Western culture, particularly Hollywood American culture. The characters lack all but the most obvious depth. The world of the story is not realistic -- this is pure cinematic pastiche.
The decor of Walk Cheerfully, the automobiles, buildings, typewriters, golf players, trumpets, hotels, original posters of foreign films and of boxing. guns, phonographs, English scribblings on the wall, the humorous greetings inspired by Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (1925) etc, constituted an "American-like" world, far from the Japanese reality and probably far from any reality in 1930.
Walk Cheerfully is not The Godfather. It's not a character study. There's a scene where Ken displays his intellectual superiority -- not by giving sage advice like "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" -- but by simply telling everyone to calm down, he needs time to think. It's that basic sometimes, and yet it works. It's fun. The film never tries for more than it can handle.

(Hiroko Kawasaki, Nobuko Matsuzono, and Minoru Takada in Walk Cheerfully)

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The acting performances range from serviceable to pretty good. Minoru Takada presents a likeable, believable Kenji the Knife, except for the parts where he's asked to show greater range, and then you can see him struggle. Hiroko Kawasaki makes a fine Yasue, the good girl he falls in love with. I was particularly impressed with her performance in this scene near the end of the film:

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More often than not, Ken's friend Hisao Yoshitani, playing Senko, steals the show. You can even call this a tearjerker buddy comedy at times.

(Minoru Takada and Hisao Yoshitani in Walk Cheerfully)

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There were two times I got emotional watching this picture, and for two entirely different reasons. The first was during the opening sequence, when Ozu uses a very stylish dolly shot as the camera moves back, revealing one car neatly after another, until it stops, and then a mob starts chasing a man in the opposite direction. You just know after watching that, you are in the hands of a great filmmaker. When the plot in the middle does get occasionally thin at times, Ozu compensates with incredible visual storytelling -- far from the static domestic shots and tatami floor angles he's famous for later in his career, Walk Cheerfully contains a myriad of dolly shots, tracking shots, high angles, low angles, zooms (both in and out), fades, all of it, combined with artful storytelling that tricked me (but in delightful ways) on more than a few occasions. While not perfect and at times gratuitous or even insecure, this film nevertheless has a way of disarming you, keeping you guessing, and before you know it you really care for the characters, so that the overly emotional ending feels just right. All the tears and smiles felt earned.

Altogether, Walk Cheerfully was a thoroughly likeable, enjoyable, kindhearted film. It's not an unqualified masterpiece like Tokyo Story or Late Spring, but it's been described as Ozu's most "fun" film and can be appreciated as much lighter fare.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#829 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun May 06, 2018 12:13 pm

Perhaps Lady and the Beard is Ozu's most purely humorous film (closest to slapstick farce), at least of the complete surviving films. But Walk Cheerfully is (I think) the most purely visually playful. It really is a delight, for one reason or another, from start to finish.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#830 Post by FilmSnob » Sun May 06, 2018 3:14 pm

I haven't watched The Lady and the Beard yet, but it's coming up soon. Just doing the chronological thing right now and watched I Flunked, But ... last night. Felt much more like a dull sitcom than a film to me. It was nice to see Kinuyo Tanaka and the Tokkan Kozô kid, but otherwise I just didn't see much humor.

Not that Ozu isn't capable of being funny, because I've found all kinds of humor in Days of Youth, Walk Cheerfully, as well as both Late Spring and Tokyo Story. But some of these other early nonsense comedies have really missed the mark for me.

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Re: BFI: 32 Ozu Films

#831 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun May 06, 2018 4:12 pm

I think the nonsense comedies have a level of silliness inspired by American slapstick comedies (some of them quite forgotten now -- as well as classics like Lloyd and Chaplin) that either don't work or require one to adopt a more old-fashioned mindset. ;-)

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