attitudes to Ozu

Aaron Gerow gerowaaron at
Sun Feb 20 15:54:12 EST 2005

I certainly would not like to see this discussion of Hasumi--which I 
broached--turn into a pummeling of him. While I have many problems with 
him (for instance, a chauvanism which can often be less Japanese than 
"Todai-ese"), I can agree with Sven that reading him can be a breath of 
fresh air--especially after feeling that someone like Bordwell is 
turning Ozu into yet another example of parametric narration. For 
better or for worse, Hasumi tries to respect the singularity of 
cinematic moments and resists stifling generalizations about the 
textual experience. Of course, at the same time, he has had the 
tendency to bracket out much of feminism, cultural studies, ideological 
analysis, etc., from the study of cinema, often based on what one could 
argue is a (conscious?) mis-reading of recent French theory. (Jeff asks 
a great question about why Hasumi doesn't dump on someone like Max 
Tessier. There is something distinctly anglophobe about him, except 
when it comes to Hawks and some American cinema. American or British 
scholarship rarely interests him.) Hasumi tends to isolate not only 
Japanese discourse on film, but also film itself from certain outside 

I would disagree with Tim that many young Japanese directors don't know 
Ozu: most of the ones I know personally do--and primarily because they 
either read Hasumi or were his students. Hasumi's influence on 
contemporary filmmaking is enormous because for about a decade or so 
after the Ozu book came out, anyone who was interested in cinema in 
Japan read Hasumi. As one colleague said, he virtually defined the only 
way one should talk about cinema. Perhaps very young filmmakers who 
were not in college in the 80s or early 90s don't know Ozu that well, 
but many slightly older ones do, at least through Hasumi. That's why in 
the 80s and early 90s you had many filmmakers like Suo or Takenaka very 
consciously emulating Ozu (or Hasumi's Ozu). One can also argue that 
the anti-humanist angle of some younger filmmakers is actually a 
product of Hasumi's reading of Ozu, one that rejects humanist 

So it is all quite complicated when you come down to it.

Aaron Gerow
Film Studies and East Asian Languages and Literatures
Yale University

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