Thursday, July 21, 2016

Yasujirō Ozu: Saint for Our time

Who has more power than filmmakers? And who, among filmmakers, had more power to invoke the spiritual than Yasujirō Ozu?

Chishū Ryū and Setsuko Hara in Late Spring by Yasujirō Ozu

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by a visit to a San Francisco church that "celebrate[s] those whose lives show God at work, building a deep character to match the godlike image which stamps them as God's own from the start." It was an invitation to think about who, for me, are some of the people -- saints -- who have made a special stamp on the world. (See Who Ya Gonna Call? (Saints for All Times))

Then, several nights ago, I watched once again the film Late Spring by Yasujirō Ozu at a screening at BAMPFA in Berkeley, and I thought, "Oh yeah, he's definitely one of those saints!"

Yasujirō Ozu
(Note the cap ... Ozu brings his own halo!)
Ozu is a hero to a vast community of people who love film, and a great deal has been written about him and his work. I once saw Roger Ebert introduce Ozu's work at a talk at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago, and a post from his blog captures much of what he said:

"To love movies without loving Ozu is an impossibility. When I see his films, I am struck by his presence behind every line, every gesture. Like Shakespeare, he breathes through his characters, and when you have seen several of his films you feel as if you must have known him."

(More at "Saluting a Master Of the Cinema, Yasujiro Ozu")

What I particularly like about Ozu's films is the way they let us listen in on intimate conversations between people. We may not find those conversations full of high drama -- at least not at first -- but if we slow down and look and listen carefully, we realize that we are being privileged to be able to get at the truth about what goes on between people, and within people.

Late Spring is an Ozu masterpiece, and film lovers study it frame by frame. It is about a man and his adult daughter, and the question of whether she will continue living with him or go off to have a life of her own. This is a plot that held quite a bit of interest for me when I was a young adult, when I felt the pull of my widowed mother in conflict with the challenges of figuring out the life I wanted to pursue. Those years have passed, and my own children are adults now, and little by little I'm becoming aware that the this film holds other relevance for me.

There is a moment in the film when the "aging" father says "I'm 56 now . . . ." and I went gulp ...! You can bet I was watching and listening even more closely from then on.

As my years advance, I'm becoming a student of listening. Great films help us hone our listening skills.

Choreographers, poets, playwrights, novelists, jazz musicians - you can find all of them on the walls of St. Gregory of Nyssa church. My array of saints also includes filmmakers . . . .

Related posts

The array of saints on the walls of St. Gregory of Nyssa raise a fascinating question for all communities of faith: who would you select to memorialize and celebrate on the walls of your church?

(See Who Ya Gonna Call? (Saints for All Times))

I often refer to how important the films of Iran have been in helping me open my mind to the possibilities of a peaceful relationship with that country. I have been fortunate to be able to go see some of the best films from Iran every year at the wonderful Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. The will be another Festival of Films From Iran showing there in February, 2014.

(See A Force for Peace: Getting to Know Iran Through Film)

The films of Hou Hsiao-hsien came after my time in Taiwan, but for me they are a happy addition to my attempts to understand the place.

(See Taiwan Through "City of Sadness")

I'm not sure the "7 habits of highly effective people" are necessarily identical to the "7 habits of highly effective apostles." But they do pose an interesting framework to consider building from.

(See The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Apostles )

I wondered at how we could have covered all that in just a minute or two -- the time it takes to go a few stops.  After all, when I walked onto that bus we were strangers.

(See Listening for Community (A Chicago Encounter))

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