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My Thesis

The Flavour of Tofu: Ozu, History and the Representation of the Everyday


My thesis deals with the films of Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro in terms of their representation of everyday life. The subject of the everyday had been the main interest of the director throughout his long career (1927 – 1963), during which period Japan, as a modern state, had gone through diverse experiences including Westernisation, war, economic success, and the emergence of mass culture. My main purpose in the thesis is to investigate the everyday life in Ozu's films from these various historical contexts of Japanese society, which I expect will elucidate more critical relationship between Ozu's everyday and Japanese modernity.


Abstract

This thesis deals with the issue of the everyday represented in the films of Japanese film director Ozu Yasujiro (1903-1963) from a socio-historical perspective. Recognised as one of the masters of Japanese cinema, Ozu is well-known for his depiction of the everyday life of Japanese people consistently throughout his long career. Ozu’s cinema, however, has been mainly studied from a formal point of view that pays attention to his particular cinematic styles. This thesis aims to revise this tendency by adopting the socio-historical methodology that actively draws upon the knowledge of modern Japanese history, and combining it with the analyses of Ozu’s films.

Following a chronological order of the prewar, war and the postwar in Japanese history as well as in Ozu’s career, this thesis is structured to investigate two main issues – the modern and the postwar – at both textual and contextual levels. My discussion thus includes historical backgrounds of how these two issues defined Japanese society, their influences on Japanese film industry (especially with regard to Shochiku, where Ozu worked), and their interaction with Ozu’s films as appearing in the form of everyday lives of different kinds of subjects.

The result suggests a much more multifaceted shape of Ozu’s oeuvre. Each of the different subjects I analyse exhibits contrasting aspects of the everyday in terms of both spatiality and temporality, which are closely related to the changing history of modern Japan. I also argue that Ozu consistently provided his representation of the everyday a critical dimension of Japanese modernity, which I conceptualise with the notion of ‘deviation’. This thesis thus concludes that Ozu, as a filmmaker of everyday life, was always conscious of his contemporary society, and in this sense, the everyday in his films is more dynamic than empty.