Sunday, July 13, 2014

Yasujiro Ozu & Kenji Mizoguchi with live scores by Aono Jikken Ensemble |
Deco Japan: Shaping Art & Culture at Seattle Asian Art Museum: May 10 - Oct 19

Though difficult to quantify the significance of Yasujiro Ozu's contribution to film history as a whole, there are few better starting points than Mark Schilling's "Re-examining Ozu on Film" overview of the director's quietly groundbreaking cinema. What's considered by many to be Ozu's masterpiece, "Tokyo Story" was Rated #1 in the director's poll and #3 in the critic's poll in Sight & Sound's 50 Greatest Films of All Time. It's global status reinforced by Dave Thompson's Best Arthouse Films of All Time column, Peter Bradshaw's "The Quiet Master" and Ian Buruma's "Yasujiro Ozu: An Artist of the Unhurried World" for The Guardian UK. Taken alongside David Bordwell's essay for Criterion, "Tokyo Story: Compassionate Detachment" and reviews of his final films, they all go some way to describe why Ozu's poetic and personal reflections on Japanese society are regarded so highly within the canon of 20th Century cinema. Seattle's foremost meeting of Japanese traditional music and the avant-garde Aono Jikken Ensemble have a long-established relationship with Ozu from their numerous commissions accompanying Northwest Film Forum's astonishing 5 week, 27 film "Sacred Cinema: The Yasujiro Ozu Retrospective" of a decade ago. This month they return after a lengthy hiatus to perform a new musical score with benshi-style narration to Ozu's silent comedy "The Lady and The Beard" which featured some brilliant promotional graphic work at the time in the 1930's. This free live performance under the stars at the Volunteer Park Amphitheater is part of Seattle Asian Art Museum's Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture 1920–1945 exhibit. With another two nights of Japanese to follow, including Kenji Mizoguchi's formative story of a young woman struggling to make it in the modern world amidst familial, generational and gender concerns, "Osaka Elegy". Alongside Ozu's later color adaptation of his own comi-tragic tale of a touring theater troupe and their lives of tradition and craft in a changing world, "Floating Weeds".