He was born in Fukagawa, Tokyo and educated at a boarding school in Matsuzaka. He worked briefly as a teacher before returning to Tokyo in 1923 to join the Shochiku Film Company. Initially a cameraman, he worked as an assistant director within three years and directed his first film, Zange no yaiba (The Sword of Penitence), in 1927. He went on to make a further 53 films - 26 in his first five years as a director, and all but 3 for Shochiku.
In July 1937, at a time when Shochiku were unhappy about Ozu's lack of box office success, the 34 year old director's army reserve unit was called up and he served for two years in China as an infantry corporal. The first film Ozu made on his return was the critically and commercially successful Toda-ke no Kyoudai (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, 1941). In 1943 Ozu was again drafted into the army to make a propaganda film in Burma. However, he was sent to Singapore instead where he spent much of his time watching American films that the Japanese army had confiscated. According to Donald Richie, Ozu's favorite was Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.
Ozu had started out making distinctive comedies before moving onto more socially aware works in the 1930s, concentrating on family dramas. He often worked with screenwriter Kogo Noda; other regular collaborators included cameraman Yuharu Atsuta and the actors Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara. His films were most favourably received from the late 1940s with works such as Banshun (Late Spring, 1949), Tokyo monogatari (Tokyo Story, 1953), considered to be his masterpiece, and Ochazuke no Aji (The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice, 1952), Soshun (Early Spring, 1956), Ukigusa (Floating Weeds, 1959) and Akibiyori (Late Autumn, 1960). His last film was Sanma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon, 1962). He died of cancer on his 60th birthday and is buried in the grounds of Engaku-ji temple, Kamakura.
As a director he was eccentric and a perfectionist. He was seen as one of the 'most Japanese' film-makers, and as such his work was only rarely shown overseas before the 1960s. He did not use sound until 1935 and did not film in colour until Higanbana (Equinox Flower) in 1958. His trademark shot was one taken from only three or so feet above the floor, the viewpoint of a person on a tatami mat. He was also strongly in favour of a static camera and meticulous compositions where no single actor would dominate a scene.
Yasujiro Ozu Facts
|Birthday||December 12, 1903|
|Date of death||December 12, 1963 (age 60)|