Archive for the 'Film/Film Makers' Category

did you see the arrow?

May 9, 2007

Did you know there’s purposefully an arrow shape in the negative space of the FedEx logo? I hadn’t noticed it until it was pointed out in this enlightening interview with Lindon Leader, the logo’s creator, on The Sneeze (superblog).

Incidentally, I was reminded of this interview by seeing the FedEx logo in the film Cast Away, wherein Tom Hanks’ Robinson Crusoe figure is a FedEx employee.

Ozu’s Noriko trilogy

June 14, 2006

A Japanese film director named Yasujiro Ozu made three wonderful films that are known as the Noriko trilogy, as the main character is a 28 year old woman named Noriko (played by the radiant Setsuko Hara). They are:

  1. Banshun (Late Spring), 1949
  2. Bakushu (Early Summer), 1951
  3. Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story), 1953

MLW and I watched the first film and loved it. It's in black and white, with jaunty music, and generally feels quaint in a 1950s kinda way – you know, cardigans and bicycles with baskets and clean trains. The film begins with a circle of Japanese women performing traditional tea ceremony, sitting on the floor and dressed in kimono. Noriko is within a traditional home, and is close to her widowed, academic dad. Late SpringNear the beginning of the film, a visitor asks Noriko 'How old are you?' and she replies, 'Twenty-eight' and he says, 'Shouldn't you be getting married?' (or words to that effect). And this is the crux of the film: should Noriko stay unmarried and look after her father, or should she 'abandon' him for marriage? Along the way, Noriko must face the first signs of a changing culture and a changing role for women. She considers applying for a job as a typist. She sometimes wears Western clothes, depending on who she's with and what she's doing. Etc. The film runs its course; beautiful and thoughtful and real. Ozu's direction is calm and quiet and allows the elements of the film to do their thing – the actors act, the characters develop, the scenery sets the scene etc. No over-egged puddings in sight. To watch a film like this is such an intimate experience; you are drawn into the story more fully because it doesn't try particularly hard to catch your attention. It feels real, and you invest yourself in it somehow.

So. The first film ran its course and we eagerly awaited the arrival of the second film in the post (thanks to amazon's dvd rental service). We had, of course, expected the story to pick up where it had left off. Well. Quelle surprise. The second film begins and you quickly recognise Noriko, but there is confusion: the empty house is now full of people – children and parents and grandparents. The actor who played Noriko's dad is now her brother (and looking a lot younger). Their parents are both alive and well. Early SummerAnd then someone asks Noriko, 'How old are you?' and she replies, 'Twenty-eight' and he says, 'Shouldn't you be getting married?' And suddenly you realise that this second film is not a continuation of the first but rather a reconfiguration of it. Ozu deals with this in so many subtle ways. For example, this time Noriko already has a job as a typist. All the familiar camera angles in her home are reversed or altered, so that like the characters, the setting is the same but different (v. subtle this one but brilliant). In this film, Noriko's struggle is for independence. Her parents want to see her married before they retire to the countryside. In the first film she accepted that her husband would be chosen for her, but in this film she wants to do the choosing. The other aspects of her life and culture are likewise refigured. But the film is delivered in the same vein, although there is just a touch more light and humour in this one, I think.

Tokyo StoryWe were not that surprised to find, therefore, that something similar happened in the third film. This time, Noriko is the daughter-in-law of the actor who was her father in the first film and her brother in the second. Now Noriko is the widow. Her parents-in-law come to Tokyo to visit their children, but their children's lives have no space for them. So it is Noriko who shows them love and hospitality, and again the question of Noriko's age and marriage (re-marriage in this case) are central to the film. The culture, the country, the people have changed again, becoming less recognisable to the old parents than in the previous two films. In the first film you saw tea ceremony, in the second a Bhuddist temple, and in the third an open-topped bus tour of Tokyo. This is a sad film, we felt, for a number of reasons.

Together, the films are remarkable. Each on their own, these films are remarkable. The lives of the characters resonate in your own life when you watch the films. Intimate and present, these films are amongst the best I've seen (and I've seen a few).

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