Ozu, like Antonioni, knows that plot is worth-less because it is manipulated. It is life usedand consequently untrue: life must at leastappear to be gratuitous to appear true. Anton-ioni believes that "the episode is the only fitunit for film" and this Ozu too believes-withthe difference that he believed it thirty yearsbefore Antonioni did. For this reason, thoughthe chronicle of an Ozu picture is fairlystraightfor~vard, you cannot make a prhcis.Everything Ozu-like evaporates if you merelytell the story, for the reason that story (or,more often, merely anecdote) is but a pretextfor the film, the real reason for which is reve-lation of character. Ozu therefore restrictscontent (a plot is an indulgence-it is tooeasy) and, in the same way, he restricts histechnique: hence his celebrated avoidance ofthese elements of film grammar which otherdirectors find indispensable. Dissolves are"cheating"; fades are "merely attributes of thecamera"; dollies, pans, etc., are "uuiuterest-ing." The only punctuation which Ozu allo\vshimself is the simple cut; the only cameraposition, that of the person seated upon tata-
his eyes about three feet from floor level,the traditional attitude for talking, for watch-ing, for listening. He allolvs himself threekinds of shots-the classical three of primitivecinema,il) The long shot is used to showsolitude, precisely because it isolates; or hu-mor, for it isolates and makes apprehendable;or aesthetic beauty, because it gets us farenough from it to see it all. (2) The middleshot, the standard unit of the Ozu film, is the"business" unit during ~vhichmost of the ac-tion occurs.
The close-up, used for height-ened moments, either with or without dia-logue, is used rarely and never allowed toenlarge itself into the "big" close-up. Eachshot has its place within the sequencc and theorder of the sequence is usually
Musically, it is the a-b-a pattern, simplebinary form, one of the most immediate andsatisfying formal experiences possible, throughreason (in films as in music) of its being firmlyapprehendable, and perhaps for the moremetaphysical reason of its being circular: abalanced, continuous geometrical form con-genial to the hun~wn mind. The sequence inOzu is the paragraph (the Ozu film has no"chapters") and ~vithin these paragraphs theshot becomes the "sentence."
Just as the sequence in Ozu is circular, so isthe basic form of the entire picture. It wouldbe difficult to find an Ozu film that did notendwhere it began-though such an atypicalpicture ~vould be Soshun (Early Spring1956). Often, indeed, this effect of formbecomes "formal," even-in the best sense-mannered. The neighbor lady appears t~vicein Tokyo Story (Tokyo Rlonogatari-1953),once in the first reel, and once in the last. Inthe first the old couple is preparing their tripand she comments upon it; in the last reel thewife is dead, the husband \\rill remain ~vherehe is alone (the opposite certainly of travel)and this too she obliquely comments upon.Ohyo: (Good Jlorning-1959) like its an-cestor, Umareta a JIita Keredo,
(-1932) ends precisely where itbegan and the adventures of the little boys(very meaningful in the latter film; merelycomic in the former) count for nothing otherthan the emotional experience which they giveus. In most Ozu films the structure presumesthis "return" and it is this ~vhichmakes thefinal reels of these pictures so compelling. Theidea of the "return" (like the idea of the cir-cle) is something which all of us find emo-tionally compelling-a somewhat common, ifnot vulgar, example of its great filmic effect is
the two celebrated
pans (before andafter hlicheline Presle's death) in
Cor))s. Musically, it is more instantly appre-hendable. The master of the "return" isMozart, because of the freshness, the surprise,the astonishing "newness" of the sound whenhe completes the return in a rondo. For onething we are back in the home key, always agrateful feeling; and for another we returnhome (as in the finale of the Jupiter) doubly