Japan 360: The Films of Ozu Yasujirô

Professor Ted Mack
Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30-3:20 SMI 309

The German director Wim Wenders has said, "If in our century something sacred still existed if there were something like a sacred treasure of the cinema, then for me that would have to be the work of the Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu." We will watch ten films by the director, including Tokyo Story (1953), which many believe to be his masterpiece. The films, made between 1931 and 1960, document the subtle and profound relationships between family members living during a time of great transition, from the rise of militarism prior to World War II, through defeat and the dropping of the atomic bomb, and the subsequent ascendance of Japan's economic power.

Students are expected to watch films on their own prior to class discussion. All films will be available via streaming and in DVD format for viewing in the Media Center. Please note that while the streamed versions are convenient, the DVD versions are of higher quality.

Japan 360 may be acceptable for the national cinema requirement for the Cinema Studies degree in the Department of Comparative Literature. Please contact that department for more information.

The following assignments and schedule are tentative and subject to change.
You will be expected to watch one film each weekend, in preparation for Tuesday's class.

All films are on reserve at the Media Center in Odegaard Library.

All of the films you will be responsible for are also available through Hulu Plus, which is a for-profit website that is not affiliated with the University of Washington. Note that students can have a two-week free trial of the service.



January 3

Introduction: Wim Wenders on Ozu Yasujirô

In-class viewing of Tokyo-Ga (1985)


In-class viewing of Tokyo Chorus (1931)

Read on your own: Yoshida Kiju, "Quintessentially 'Ozu'" 5-15 and "Cinematic Images Limitlessly Opened" 147-51; Daisuke Miyao, "Translator's Introduction" ix-xx, in Yoshida.

Discussion of I Was Born, But... (1932)
Tentative readings: Michael Koresky, "Silent Ozu -- Three Family Comedies"; Bordwell 217-22, 224-29; Yoshida Kiju, "The Pleasure of Viewing" 61-86.
Discussion of Late Spring (1949)
Tentative readings: Michael Atkinson, "Late Spring: Home with Ozu"; Bordwell 307-12; Thompson, "Late Spring and Ozu's Unreasonable Style," 317-52.
Discussion of Early Summer (1951)
26 Tentative readings: David Bordwell, "Early Summer"; Bordwell 1988: 316-21; Wood, "Resistance to Definition" 94-138.
Discussion of Tokyo Story (1953)
February 2
Tentative readings: David Bordwell, "Tokyo Story"; Bordwell 328-33; Hasumi Shigehiko, "Sunny Skies," Ozu's Tokyo Story 118-30; Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, "Narration and Japanese Modernity," 112-41.
Discussion of Tokyo Twilight (1957)
Tentative readings: Michael Koresky, "Late Ozu"; Bordwell 339-42; Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, "Ozu and the Work of Mourning," 142-75; Robin Wood, "Notes Toward a Reading of Tokyo Twilight" (2004).
Discussion of Equinox Flower (1958)
Tentative readings: Bordwell 343-47; Edward Branigan, "The Space of Equinox Flower," (1976); Burch, "Ozu Yasujiro"154-85.
Discussion of Good Morning (1959)
Tentative readings: Rick Prelinger, "Good Morning"; Bordwell 1988: 348-54; Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2, 13-18; Alastair Philips, "Pictures of the Past in the Present: Modernity, Femininity, and Stardom in the Postwar Films of Ozu Yasujiro" (2003).
Discussion of Floating Weeds (1959)
March 1
Tentative readings: David Ehrenstein, "Floating Weeds"; Donald Richie, "Stories of Floating Weeds"; Bordwell 1988: 355-59; Yoshida Kiju, "Films that Imply" 87-120.
Discussion of Late Autumn (1960)

Tentative readings: Donald Richie, "Ozu's Diaries"; Bordwell 360-64; Kathe Geist, "Narrative Strategies in Ozu's Late Films"; Hasumi Shigehiko, "Ozu's Angry Women."





Final Exam: Friday, March 16, 2:30-4:20, SMI 309





Most of the readings will be available as PDF files to students in the class through links in the syllabus above; others can be found in full texts available below.

Readings are taken from the following texts:

David Bordwell, Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (BFI Publishing, 1988); the Michigan Electronic Reprint also has a new introduction by the author.

Noël Burch, To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema (University of California Press, 1979); the Michigan Electronic Reprint also has an original introduction by Professor Harry D. Harootunian.

Gilles Deleuze, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, Cinema 2: The Time-Image (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).

David Desser, Ozu's Tokyo Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Kristin Thompson, Breaking the Glass Armor: Neoformalist Film Analysis (Princeton: Princeton UP,1988).

Robin Wood, Sexual Politics and Narrative Film: Hollywood and Beyond (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

Yoshida Kiju, trans. Daisuke Miyao and Kyoko Hirano, Ozu's Anti-Cinema (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan, 2003).

Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, Logic of Sentiment: The Postwar Japanese Cinema and Questions of Modernity (Ph.D. diss, UCSD 1993).

The Criterion Collection has valuable information about Ozu and these films available online.

Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (Off-campus link)
The online guide contains more than 240 alphabetically arranged entries on critics and theorists, critical schools and movements, and the critical and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods.

Additional resources:


PARTICIPATION: Participation in classroom discussions is central to successful performance in the class. Each weekend you will be expected to watch a film that will be discussed on Tuesdays. Students must have seen the relevant film before class meetings and have submitted (via Collect It dropbox) a brief (250-word) reaction paper by 7am Monday morning. Students will be advised during the first meeting concerning how to write appropriate responses. You might find some useful advice on writing the response papers here. Thursdays will be dedicated to discussions of the relevant reading assignments. Although no response paper is required, students should be prepared to summarize arguments and identify main points from the readings.

RESPONSE PAPERS: Please give your file a name based on your family name and the assignment number. My paper for "I Was Born, But...," for example, should be "Mack01.doc".

GRADING: Grades will be determined through a combination of the student's preparation for and participation in discussions (50%), response papers (30%), and a final examination (20%).

STUDY GROUPS: I encourage students to meet outside of class to discuss the films and problems they have encountered in interpreting them.

CHEATING AND PLAGIARISM: The presentation of another's words and ideas as one's own is a serious offense; violations will be dealt with according to the University codes of conduct, which stipulate sanctions up to and including expulsion.

ACADEMIC ACCOMMODATIONS: I will do everything I can to accommodate students with particular needs. To request such an accommodation, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you require such accommodation, we can discuss ways to meet those needs.

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