Monday, March 22, 2010

Passing Fancy (Yasujiro Ozu, 1933)

Passing Fancy borrows from I Was Born, But… the theme of a son’s shame for his father, but Ozu is straying slightly further from the comedy of his two earlier films. I may still prefer I Was Born, But… for its lackadaisical view of childhood, following a carefree schoolyard narrative before erupting in the momentary pain of the boys’ contempt for their father’s poor social standing. The moments of rebellion are heartbreaking, but there is a whimsical grace to it all, and it doesn’t take long for the father to placate the two boys before they return to the schoolyard yet again, ending in an extended, lyrical long-shot. Passing Fancy is a more intimate film, apparently inspired by King Vidor’s Depression-era film The Champ, comprised of far more low-to-the-ground close-ups and meticulous still-shots; Donald Sosin’s isolated piano score accentuates the careful rhythm of Ozu’s analytical cutting. The result is a more plotted out film about a very lovingly crafted child/father relationship. The jokes are sparser and the atmosphere less quaint and immersive, but the even more fastidious camerawork and attention to details, be they emotionally charged objects or simple hand gestures, makes Passing Fancy a more layered and pungent pathos-driven work, the closest a silent film has come to making me cry after The Passion of Joan of Arc.

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