Making The Invisible, Visible & Breaking Rules To Create His Own - On Ozu & His Craft!

By Arun Fulara. Posted on August 02, 2016

Thom Anderson in the Sight & Sound;

"A fundamental rule of standard continuity requires that the camera always stay on one side of an axis created by the actors’ gazes. Thus the camera may not be moved 180 degrees from one set-up to another; it must always stay within a semi-circle on one side of the axis.

Ozu doesn’t simply violate this rule, he overturns it: every cut crosses the axis of the gaze. Every cut is a multiple of 45 degrees, most often 180 degrees (especially when he cuts on an action match) or 90 degrees. The standard continuity system was developed to make cuts invisible, to the conscious mind at least. Ozu denaturalises the cuts, making them as noticeable as possible.

Then there are the shots of ‘empty spaces’: still lifes, unpeopled interiors, building facades and landscapes. They are Ozu’s trademark, the one part of his system that has been adapted by modern European and Asian filmmakers, and they have given his interpreters a great deal of trouble when they try to assign them a meaning.

In his essential book on Ozu, David Bordwell calls these empty spaces “intermediate” because these shots generally occur between scenes (although sometimes as cutaways within scenes). But they are not establishing shots, although some shots in a series may serve that function. They have an autonomy that led Noël Burch to call them extradiegetic, that is “on another plane of reality”, although they exist in the same space as the characters. Perhaps it suffices to define them simply by the absence of the characters and the suspension of the narrative."

Read the full essay here...


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