Yasujiro Ozu was a Japanese filmmaker who made some of the most influential films in the history of cinema.

He was born on February 13, 1903 in Tokyo, Japan. His father died when he was a child and his mother raised him alone.

Ozu began his career as an accountant at an insurance company, but soon found himself drawn to filmmaking. He opened a small film production company in 1936 and produced his first film, The Only Son (Nora-ni-onegai), in 1937.

Best Yasujiro Ozu Films

Yasujiro Ozu’s films are slow, unshowy and delicate. They’re also unshowy and delicate in the most classical sense of the word.

He doesn’t blow things up, he doesn’t stage fights or chase people around. His characters are just two people talking about their lives.

1. An Autumn Afternoon (1962)               

An Autumn Afternoon is the final film in Ozu’s Tokyo Story trilogy. It focuses on the relationship between two elderly married couples, who are neighbors and good friends.

The husband and wife of the first couple have been dead for several years and their daughter has moved away. Their son-in-law has remarried, but he and the second couple still get together occasionally for lunch or dinner. The father-in-law and his wife treat their daughter like a child,

which annoys her husband; however, they are also kind to her, even though she does not reciprocate their love in return.

The story begins with a close-up shot of an old woman sitting at a table, as she looks up at her son-in-law’s wife. Her face is half hidden by hair that spreads across her forehead like a veil;

her eyes are hidden behind thick glasses, while her mouth has been filled with false teeth that have been stained yellow from nicotine use. She is dressed in a simple black dress with white buttons down the front; there are no frills or decorations on it except for one small red rose pinned to its collar.

As we

An Autumn Afternoon (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director) - Yasujiro Ozu (Writer) - Shizuo Yamanouchi (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

2. Good Morning (1959)

Good Morning is one of the most famous films of Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu, who had the reputation of being a master filmmaker and is often compared with other masters of the silent era such as Frank Borzage and Buster Keaton.

The film tells a story about an old couple who have been married for many years and live in relative isolation from their neighbors. When they decide to move into an apartment across from their current home, they encounter problems that force them to reexamine their relationship.

Good Morning is not only an examination of relationships between people, but also a study of how we view ourselves through the eyes of others. The film’s title refers to the morning ritual where people wake up,

get dressed and eat breakfast before going off to work or school; however, it can also be interpreted as taking time out of your life to think about things that matter—this is what happens when Mitsuo discovers that his wife has left him for another man while they were on vacation together

Good Morning (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Masahiko Shimazu, Koji Shidara, Kuniko Miyake (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director) - Yasujiro Ozu; Kogo Noda (Writer) - Shizuo Yamanouchi (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

3. Tokyo Story (1953)

A film about a couple who spend their final days together in Tokyo, where they face the challenges of old age and widowhood. The film’s central theme is the struggle between the two characters—the old man and his younger wife—for control over their lives.

The film begins with an elderly couple living in a large house that they have inherited from their parents. They are supported by their daughter-in-law, who works outside the home as a kindergarten teacher.

During one evening, the husband tells his wife that he wants to die soon because “it would be good if we could die together.” The next morning, however, he decides against this plan and instead decides to stay alive as long as possible.

The old man goes out every day on his bicycle while his wife stays at home. One day she receives news that her father has died and will be buried on that day; she decides to go see him but finds out that he has died earlier than expected. She returns home and then goes back out again to visit her father’s grave site where she sits down beside

Tokyo Story (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director) - Kogo Noda (Writer) - Takeshi Yamamoto (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

4. Late Autumn (1960)

Yasujirō Ozu’s second film is a masterpiece of subtlety and restraint. The story concerns the last couple of months of a marriage between Hana (Chishū Ryō) and Kisaburo (Jun’ichi Miyagi).

They’ve been together for seven years, and they have an almost idyllic marriage: they love each other, they have a good relationship with their two children, and they share many interests. But as the days go on, Hana starts to withdraw from her family.

Her husband suspects that she’s having an affair with his best friend, Mr. Kimura (Shūji Kizaki), who lives next door but never really seems to notice them when he comes over for dinner or drinks with Kisaburo in his study.

Hana does nothing significant herself to support her husband’s suspicions; in fact, she seems quite cheerful most of the time despite her husband’s suspicions about her relationship with Kimura.

It takes until the very end of the film for us to understand why Hana is behaving so strangely; by then it’s too late for her to be redeemed by some sort of confession or revelation that will make everything right again. This is one

Late Autumn - a 1960 Japanese Classic (English Sub, All Region DVD)
  • Thai version with English Sub, and Japanese Language available.
  • Setsuko Hara, Mariko Okada, Yoko Tsukasa (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

5. Floating Weeds (1959)

Floating Weeds is a film about the lives of several people in their everyday activities. It opens with a woman, Mrs. Kishi, who always eats freshly washed spinach and then goes to bed early.

The next morning, she wakes up at 7:00 am and takes a bath before going out to buy groceries for dinner. She returns home at 8:00 pm and cooks a meal for her husband and son, who have just come home from work. She serves them dinner after which they sit down together to watch television while they eat.

After this scene, we see two young lovers walking along a road; one of them is carrying a basket on his back filled with flowers. They pass by Mrs. Kishi’s house but do not notice her because they are too busy talking about their plans for the future.

Later on that night, we see another couple sitting on the same bench where Mrs. Kishi was sitting earlier in the day; this time it is Mr., who has been struck by lightning while working as an electrician on an offshore oil rig near Cape

6. Early Summer (1951)

Early Summer is one of the most beautiful and transcendent films ever made. It’s a simple story that doesn’t need any gimmicks to be effective. The cinematography is simply gorgeous, the acting is subtle and natural, and the dialogue has a quiet poetry that we all miss when we talk on our phones.

The film begins with two middle-aged sisters sitting at their kitchen table, talking about their lives. They’re both married, but neither of them has children.

They never see each other anymore because they live in different cities, so they rarely talk on the phone or visit each other in person. Their only connection is through letters and messages left for each other by their children, who have also moved out of their hometowns for work opportunities elsewhere in Japan.

The film then shifts to another house where we meet an elderly couple who still live there alone after all these years together as husband and wife. They seem happy enough until we learn that their home has been sold to developers who plan to tear it down for new housing developments in order to profit off of them by selling off the land around it. This upsets this elderly husband

Early Summer / What Did the Lady Forget? (DVD + Blu-ray) [1951]
  • Early Summer (1951) ( Bakushû ) ( Proimo kalokairi )
  • Early Summer (1951)
  • Bakushû
  • Proimo kalokairi
  • Setsuko Hara, Chishu Ryu, Kuniko Miyake (Actors)

7. Tokyo Twilight (1957)

The second of Ozu’s masterpieces and the one that I recommend most to anyone who wants to see how cinema could be done. It follows the lives of three families in Tokyo through the years, from before World War II through the end of the war.

The film is shot in a style that is both simple and abstract. The photography is beautiful, but not always in ways we would expect (or want). The characters are all human without being caricatures, which makes them all the more realistic. And the story is a simple one but doesn’t feel simplistic at all because of it.

There are no big dramatic moments; instead there are small ones that accumulate into something bigger than they seem at first glance. The film ends with an image of a young boy playing with his dog while looking out over Tokyo, which has become his home town.

Tokyo Twilight - a 1957 Japanese Classic (English Sub, All Region DVD)
  • Thai version with English Sub, and Japanese Language available.
  • Ineko Arima, Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

8. The End of Summer (1961)

I don’t know if there is anything more beautiful than the end of summer. The air is warm, the sky is blue, and you can smell the earth. You may be alone, but you are happy because you have seen a lot of things in your life and you feel like you have seen more than most people.

You think about all the things that have happened to you and how it makes your life seem so amazing.

The End of Summer was shot in black and white with a handheld camera. It’s about a man who goes on vacation with his wife to visit his parents at their home in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.

They are going to stay for two weeks before returning to their own home in Tokyo. He has been working on his book while they’ve been apart and he’s nervous about being judged by his father-in-law when they meet again after so long apart.

The film begins with an older woman walking down a beach holding her young daughter’s hand while she cries because she doesn’t want her mother to leave her alone all day long while she goes off with her friends or plays volleyball or swims

The end of Summer - a 1961 Japanese Classic (English Sub, All Region DVD)
  • Thai version with English Sub, and Japanese Language available.
  • Ganjiro Nakamura, Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa (Actors)
  • English, Thai (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

9. Equinox Flower (1958)

The story of Equinox Flower is a simple one. A middle-aged man, his wife, and their daughter move into a new apartment. The husband finds a flower in the garden and takes it home with him. He gives it to his wife, who puts it on the table for their daughter’s birthday.

The next morning, the flower has withered and died, but the couple doesn’t say anything about it. They get on with their lives, but then one day they find that their daughter is upset and crying over the dead flower. She won’t let them touch her or speak to her;

she’ll only talk to herself and cry over the dead flower. The parents don’t know what to do until finally one of them brings back another flower from outside and says: “I brought this back for you.”

EQUINOX Flower - a 1958 Japanese Classic (English Sub, All Region DVD)
  • Thai version with English Sub, and Japanese Language available.
  • Shin Saburi, Kinuyo Tanaka, Ineko Arima (Actors)
  • English, Thai (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

10. I Was Born, But… (1932)

I Was Born, But… is a 1932 film directed by Yasujirō Ozu. It was released in Japan as Sanshiro Sugata. The film is about a young man’s efforts to earn money to marry his sweetheart.

The story takes place in Tokyo, a bustling metropolis where the protagonist Takashi (Takashi Shimura) lives with his parents. One day he receives a letter from his fiancée saying she is pregnant and wants him to marry her as soon as possible.

Takashi’s father tells him that marriage can’t be rushed like this because he must have time to prepare for it properly.

Takashi then goes out into the streets and encounters many people who are looking for work at construction sites around town. He finds that the pay is very low, but there are many types of jobs available which means he can earn enough money to save up for his marriage.

Eventually Takashi makes enough money to buy a small house where he lives with his parents and fiancée Kae (Machiko Kyo). He also arranges a job with another company where he works long hours under difficult conditions in order to save more money so that

I Was Born, But... [VHS]
  • Tatsuo Saitô, Tomio Aoki, Mitsuko Yoshikawa (Actors)
  • Yasujirô Ozu (Director) - Akira Fushimi (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

11. The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952) 

In the early 1950s, Ozu was not yet a household name in Japan. His first film, Tokyo Story (1953), which is still considered one of his best, had only been released once it was re-edited and re-released as part of a collection of his works in 1995. But this 1952 film has become something of a signature work for him and his style.

The film begins with a young girl waking up early on a Sunday morning to prepare breakfast for her family. After she gets dressed and leaves the house, she meets some neighbors on her way to church.

They talk about how much they love eating rice balls during Lent, which is when Christians fast from meat and dairy products for 40 days. The girl says she loves rice balls too, but that she has decided not to do so this year because her family is poor;

they cannot afford many luxuries like meat or butter. In fact they are so poor that they cannot afford rice either!

The girl goes off to church where she sings a song with other worshipers while waiting for their pastor to arrive. When he finally arrives he greets everyone by calling out their names one by

12. The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941) 

Director: Yasujirō Ozu

Writer: Yasujirō Ozu

Country: Japan

Language: Japanese/Mandarin (Hanyu Pinyin)

The family drama The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family is one of the most famous films made by Yasujirō Ozu, who was born in 1895. In this film, he depicts the lives of a large family consisting of a father, mother, four sons and two daughters.

The film focuses on the eldest daughter Natsu (Eiko Kadono), whose mother Aya (Shige Fujio) wants her to become a geisha like herself. However, after Natsu’s younger brother dies in World War II, she feels sympathy for all those who have been affected by war and decides to marry someone who will not fight in wars.

Natsu’s younger sister Ineko (Kinuko Lai) falls in love with her teacher but their relationship is cut short when he leaves for China to teach English. Natsu then meets Kunio (Masayuki Mori), who works at an oil company and is married to Matsuko (Kamatari Fujiwara),

13. Early Spring (1956) 

The film is an adaptation of a short story by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata, entitled “A Master Builder.” It tells the story of a young architect who travels to Tokyo to meet with his client, but finds himself struggling with the responsibilities of his position.

The film begins with the young architect being called to an old building site. He meets up with the old man who owns it and learns that the building is falling apart.

The old man has designed the building himself and asks him to make it more beautiful. After seeing some of his work, the client agrees that he needs more work done on the site.

Then they hear music coming from inside one of the buildings on site. They go in and find a woman singing; she is blind and singing traditional songs from her village. They bring her out and show her around town; she seems happy for a bit until she sees another old woman selling umbrellas at a stand nearby.

She goes over there, buys one and sits down next to her “mother”.

The two women talk about how much they miss their homes in

Early Spring - a 1956 Japanese Classic (English Sub, All Region DVD)
  • Thai version with English Sub, and Japanese Language available.
  • Chikage Awashima, Ryo Ikebe, Teiji Takahashi (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director)
  • English, Thai (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

14. Late Spring (1949)   

 Late Spring is a 1949 Japanese film directed by Yasujirō Ozu. It was released as part of Ozu’s Late Spring series, which comprises six films and was intended to represent the seasons of Japan. In this film, family life is presented in a natural way, without any of the artificiality that often characterizes his later works.

The film begins with the father (Shimura Kazuo) of the main character, Tomioka Hideo (Matsumoto Ryo), returning home after being away at sea for many years. The family house has been abandoned but still stands, and its dilapidated appearance suggests that it is unoccupied.

As he walks through the grounds, he finds his daughter-in-law (Kasai Kiyomi) picking wildflowers in a field near the house; she greets him by name, but does not appear to recognize him as her father-in-law.

His wife Miyashita Setsuko (Watanabe Yūko) welcomes him back into their home and asks about his voyage and whether he has brought back any income from it; he says that there was nothing worthwhile on offer but that he hopes to sell some fish soon.

Late Spring (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director) - Yasujiro Ozu (Writer) - Takeshi Yamamoto (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

15. A Hen in the Wind (1948)

A Hen in the Wind is the second feature film by Yasujirō Ozu, who would go on to make 12 more films during his lifetime. The film was released in Japan on September 4, 1948 and is one of Ozu’s most well-known works.

It stars Minoru Chiaki as a young man who lives with his wife and daughter in a small apartment in Tokyo. He works at an office where he has a close relationship with his boss and coworkers. They are all kind to him until he accidentally offends another coworker with whom he shares an interest in classical music.

This coworker then begins to ostracize him from the office and its occupants, causing him to become depressed.

The film follows Yamada’s life over several days as he tries to overcome his depression. Yamada’s job allows him to see people from different walks of life and allows him to reflect upon his own life while still working at his office job.

The film takes place over three days, each day taking on a new focus: Yamada’s first day at work; his second day at work; and finally his third day at work.

A Hen in the Wind
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Kinuyo Tanaka, Shuji Sano (Actors)
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director) - Yasujirô Ozu (Writer) - Mitsuzô Kubo (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

16. A Story of Floating Weeds (1934)     

The film is a story of a young couple who are unable to have children. They decide to adopt a child but are denied by the adoption agency because they are too old. The mother goes to the park with her son and meets an old man playing with his grandson.

The old man tells her that he was once married, but his wife died during childbirth, leaving him with only one child, who was an orphaned baby girl named Maika.

The old man said he will take care of Maika if the couple adopts her; however, he does not want any money from them in exchange for taking care of her. He only wants them to promise him that they will raise her as their own daughter and treat her as one of their own children would be treated.

Stories of Floating Weeds (A Story of Floating Weeds / Floating Weeds) (The Criterion Collection)
  • Ganjirô Nakamura, Machiko Kyô, Haruko Sugimura (Actors)
  • Yasujirô Ozu (Director) - Kôgo Noda (Writer) - Masaichi Nagata (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

17. There Was a Father (1942)  

 There Was a Father is an American film directed by Yasujirō Ozu, released in 1942. It is one of the films for which Ozu won the Academy Award for Best Director and was honored with a Special Award at the 1942 Cannes Film Festival.

The film stars Chishū Ryū (the father), Keiko Tsushima (the mother), Karen Morishita (the daughter), Ken Uehara (the son-in-law), Toshiro Mifune (the grandson) and Kichijirō Suga (a neighbor). The cast also includes Tatsuo Saitō and Minoru Chiaki.

The plot centers on a family living in a small apartment building. The father-in-law comes to visit, and he and his daughter become friends. He then invites them to dinner at his home, but they decline so they can go out together instead.

There Was a Father was produced by Shochiku Company and distributed by Toho Company Ltd., where it was later re-released in 1946 as When Love Begins.[3]

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18. The Only Son (1936)

Ozu’s last film, The Only Son, is a moving portrait of an old man who lives alone and tends to his garden. He’s in his 80s but seems much younger. He cooks, cleans and cares for the house, but he can’t help but feel that he has failed his only son and daughter.

His son died at the age of 30, and his daughter at 21; they were both killed in an accident. Their deaths have left him with no one to care for him in his old age. A neighbor visits him once a year on his birthday to give him a present; otherwise they’re not close at all.

He thinks about them constantly but never talks about them or even mentions them when he meets people or is interviewed by reporters.

When he meets a new woman who lives next door, she becomes his “only son.” She brings him fresh flowers every day and feeds him whenever he’s hungry.

They grow closer over time, until she takes on more responsibility for taking care of him than he does for taking care of himself: she cooks dinner for him every night so that he doesn’t have to worry about preparing food or cleaning up after dinner

19. Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947)     

 A film about the daily lives of a family living in an apartment building, Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947) is directed by Yasujirō Ozu. The film is said to have been inspired by his own experiences as a tenant of the same building.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman tells the story of a man who has recently returned to his hometown after years abroad. He lives with his wife and daughter in an apartment building that has long been managed by his parents, who have since passed away.

While he loves his home and neighbors, he feels isolated from them as he leads an unusual life.

The main character’s wife is pregnant at the start of the film, and she is unable to work because she needs rest after giving birth. She goes out to work only occasionally because she does not want her husband to know about it or find out that she has gone out shopping or to see friends.

When she does go out, she stays at home alone while her husband works at home alone. She takes care of their young daughter as best she can while doing housework by herself, but sometimes she cannot help feeling lonely without her husband around because he is always busy working on something else in their apartment building.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman (Nagaya-Shinsi-Roku, 1947)
  • NTSC All Region Import
  • B & W
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English and Chinese
  • 72 mins.

20. An Inn in Tokyo (1935)          

In An Inn in Tokyo, a young couple is forced to spend the night at an inn because they have no money. They are treated rudely by the owner and his wife, who refuse to let them have any privacy.

The husband is so angry he decides to leave immediately. But his wife asks him not to go because she wants to tell him something important. She tells him that if it weren’t for her, they would never have met each other. She also explains that she doesn’t like the way their landlord treats them,

but she doesn’t want him to know that because he’s a kind man and wouldn’t do anything bad. The husband understands, but still feels bad about leaving without saying goodbye. He leaves without telling her how much he loves her or how much he appreciates what she has done for them both.

AN INN IN TOKYO (1935) / Tôkyô no yado
  • Yasujiro Ozu (Director)
  • English, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese (Subtitles)

Characteristics of Yasujiro Ozu Films

 One of the most important characteristics of Yasujiro Ozu films is their non-verbal language. The characters communicate through body language and facial expressions, rather than verbal communication. This creates a sense of intimacy between the actors and viewers, as well as enhancing the sense of realism. Ozu’s films also use ellipses (see below) to create pauses between scenes or dialogue.

In addition, there are several visual techniques that help create a sense of realism in Ozu’s films:

Close-up shots. These are usually used to emphasize a particular aspect of an actor’s face or body, such as an emotional response or internal struggle.

Long continuous shots (including medium shots). These are used to convey a sense of time passing, usually in relation to a character’s emotional state (see above).

Long tracking shots following characters through city streets or rural countrysides. These shots highlight an actor’s physical presence and emotionality (see above).

Best Yasujiro Ozu Films – Wrapping Up

Yasujiro Ozu’s films are often described as being “quiet” and “subtle,” but this isn’t entirely accurate.

For one thing, they’re not that quiet at all; they’re filled with noise, even if it’s just a couple of people talking in hushed tones.

But even more than that, Ozu tends to shoot his films in a way that makes them seem slow-moving and deliberate, even when they’re not.

That’s because he’s not interested in telling stories that are fast or exciting. Instead, he wants to explore what it means to live a full life within the constraints of modern Japanese society.

In doing so, he evokes an entire world through subtle touches gestures, expressions and movements that tell us more about his characters than any dialogue ever could.

Most of his movies are also known for their lack of color; the only real “color” we see is from food or flowers (and even these tend toward monochromatic).

 

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