At first blush, Yasujiro Ozu and Wes Anderson would seem to be miles apart. Ozu is the “most Japanese” of all directors. His films are small, quiet, finely calibrated works that document the slow reordering of the family unit in the face of Japan’s rapid modernization. Anderson’s movies are twee and whimsical, filled with wry humor and a shocking amount of violence against dogs.
Yet video essayist Anna Catley in her piece Wes Anderson & Yasujiro Ozu: A Visual Essay makes a pretty compelling case that these two auteurs are more similar than you might think. Both filmmakers have a clear and highly stylized manner of constructing their movies: Ozu’s films are characterized by symmetrical compositions and an unmoving camera that remains about two and a half feet off of the ground. Anderson’s movies are marked by symmetrical compositions, long complex camera moves and lots of overhead shots. Both Ozu and Anderson have a stable of actors that they work with repeatedly — Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara for Ozu, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray for Anderson. Both filmmakers’ movies are about the complex, often fraught, relationships between parents and children. And both directors often employed the point of view of children to highlight adult hypocrisy and disappointment.
Ozu’s movies, however, were relatively free of Cat Stevens songs.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.