Quiet Cinematography- Floating Weeds (1959)

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93 thoughts on “Quiet Cinematography- Floating Weeds (1959)

  1. Wow, seeing something like that is allways impressive ^^
    Your videos are so amazing, it's like studying film & motion or so, only in a more entertaining way :3

  2. A great insight. Thanks for sharing. I love movies like this. The last point is very valid. I think static camera is very common in Japanese cinema. But then there is a stillness in many things Japanese. I think it would be very interesting to compare this aspect of cinematography in detail. The moving versus the still. Tarskovsky makes incredible use of the moving camera yet I think he manages to evoke similar qualities even though his subject is moreoften more dramatically heigthened.

  3. I recently watched Silence By scorcese and there is lot of Kurosawa and Ozu influences in that film I admire that

  4. You throw a lot of shade in this video, particularly on recent films (and by extension, filmmakers). And if I may be blunt, you do so in such an arrogant manner ("How many shots do you blah blah blah? You should have about 75 now." Geez, snob much? What does your comment about the number accomplish, really? Show how smart you are and we should all bask in its light because we counted less or, contrarily, feel ashamed because we counted, oh, about 85 or so?)

    You lament you wish you could see more of Ozu's techniques in today's films but at the same time admit you're not sure if this is the best way to go about it. And then Birdman. Is the filmmakers' choice about camera movement in this movie questionable here? To what purpose? Why not denigrate Hitchcock as well for using the technique in "Rope," while you're at it?

    If I may, allow me to use painting as an analogy. What you're saying here is, "look at Rembrandt and his incredible use of chiaroscuro. It's so rare now and I wish painters would use this technique more. Sure we see it now and then, but they're pale imitations." This might not be your essay's intention, but it sure comes off that way for me.

    A pundit once said that every form of criticism nowadays is made in a passive-aggressive frame, and your video reminded me how true this is. As much as you would want us to celebrate Ozu's opus, I wonder why you can't make it be just that–a celebration. If you must poo-pooh today's filmmaker because their use of pillow shots "is just nature porn" and then turn around and give Ozu's breaking of cinematic language conventions ("because why not?") a pass, then we'll have to question the validity your point.

    Lastly, that comment in the end of the video. If we were to take a snapshot and put it up our wall, as you recommend, that would make it photography, no? I might be wrong and supremely dumb to see your point. However, to me…that's not cinema at all. But hey, it's your video, and you go ahead and make as much subjective observations as you want. I'm just not buying any of it anytime soon.

  5. Great video and important to notice how the "quiet" approach on cinematography can work and lead to amazing result … On the other hand I think, a director would limit himself to much if he doesn't move the camera at all.

  6. I don't know if you've read Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics (the Invisible Art)", but what you're calling pillow shots is actually something that comes up in the Japanese school of comics, manga. Aspect to aspect transitions, where you go from one part of a scene to another to establish a mood, assembling a moment from separate images instead of constantly going action-to-action to move the story forward are seen in Japanese comics where they don't much feature in American comics or even European works like Tintin.

    (A PDF of Understanding Comics can be found online easily, if you want to see what I'm talking about. Chapter 3 is the relevant part to this comment.)

  7. wow, I've never heard of Yasujiro Osu, but I'm really glad I have now. This could be a silent film and work beautifully on its own.

  8. Birdman was great and the tree of life is about nature so of course it would have an abundance of nature shots…

  9. Actually, I see the pillow shots pretty often in Japanese media, such as anime. I think it's at least partially tied to how they tend to present stories.

  10. Thank you for introducing this to me. Wonderful to see the length gone to to capture such shots with, as mentioned, depth, composition and the "pillow shot". I'd personally call it an insert but I can see the justification in calling such a thing as it is an actual pause in proceedings – a "restful moment" – but they give you more information about the environment and yes!! all frames would make great art, framed on a wall. Beautiful documentary…sub'd!

  11. I agree that Ozu's camera placement is well thought out and a good example of good cinematography. I just want to mention sometimes people see something pretty on the screen and credit cinematography, and sometimes it's not just the camera but amazing set design.

  12. Cinematography should be imperceptible, you shouldn't notice it BUT you should FEEL it, it's also not enough that cinematography be invisible it should evoke emotion at the same time

  13. I know Ozu was the autuer and his style is very distict but you really shoulda mentioned the cinematographer on this film Kazuo Miyagawa

  14. His composition really reminds me of the composition on Isle of Dogs, where every shot also looks like a beautiful still picture.

  15. The best part of this video is how the cinematography can fit perfectly with Boards of Canada songs. Here you got the complete list of the BOC's songs:

    – Zoetrope.
    – Kid for Today.
    – Reach for the Dead.
    – Nothing is Real.

  16. Wow, these shots are so gorgeous, I could hang them on my wall.

    EDIT: Which is exactly what you said in the end XD

  17. I am a keen (amateur) stills photographer and as I watch Ozu movies and also watch these analyses of his work, it has struck me how often he composes his shots exactly as a still photographer is supposed to do.

    For example at 0.57 seconds into this video there is a scene with a woman and man in the mid range eating from bowls and in the background a child. He has aligned them diagonally with their bodies broadly describing a line from top left to bottom right and they are framed by the door of the home and the dark interior of the home – all of which add visual interest. It is pretty much exactly how I would aspire to compose the shot if I had a choice. And the same goes for the shot that precedes it at about 0.52 seconds – two people on a seawall fishing framed by the rockwall below them and the two verticals of the lighthouse and the electricity pole. (My own shooting is candid, so I do not always have much composition choice when subjects are moving). But Ozu has choice and consistently makes the most of it – using framing of the main subject by such vertical and horizontal objects which works well with his static camera approach. He also most effectively uses perspective and the rule of thirds for attractive and balanced subject placement, shadows and light to focus attention where he wants it and things like windows and roof lines, chimneys and so forth just to capture scene and mood. All are things a stills photographer would do – probably because motion is not available to him/her (just as it is not available to Ozu given his stylistic choice of using a static camera). I was also struck how often certain objects or places seem to turn up in his films – the tall factory chimneys are a case in point. It seems his locations might have been as static as his camera work.

    I was at first inclined to think he might have started his career as a still photographer though I have not seen any documentary evidence of this. On reflection it is more likely that it is just how his style evolved as a result of having begun as a cinematographer during the silent era when those large hand-wound cameras tended to be used in just this manner. – very static, almost no panning and using few other, more modern techniques because of technical limitations. The difference being Ozu chose to retain the style through his career, well after it become an artistic choice not a necessity. That is my guess anyway. In any event he is a great director who innovated to create his own style and as I watch his work I find that in many ways I even think I prefer his work to Kurosawa's as being somehow more authentically Japanese in feeling. As an outsider looking in I have always felt that the Japanese so tightly box in their emotions exactly because they are in reality so emotional. This is just what Ozu captures with his unique approach.

    As an after thought, I will add that I also seem to detect a few echos of Ozu's style in Yoji Yamada's "Twilight Samurai" especially in the way in which he lovingly dwells on Sebei's family relationships and the minutiae of everyday life in Sebei's home. Yamada also makes good use of Ozu's "hallway technique" in at least one scene in "Hidden Blade" when a small drama is played out after a high level samurai is assassinated – a static camera focused on a long hall as people walk across an intersecting passageway at the far end. Small hints of an "Ozu like" approach which I have always admired and loved in these almost unique samurai movies long before I ever knew of Ozu and the role he played in Japanese film.

  18. Nice music choices, the pairing of BOC and OZU works, good job. I'm not sure if you mentioned it or not, but that the cameraman was almost always sitting on the tatami floor while filming so the perspective is aesthetically pleasing for western viewers because it's such a unique angle.

  19. A painting can also be boring without any king of movement. Lightening makes see things in different ways. In Ozu's films everything seems desesperatly the same, without magic, wonderness, dreams…. I think cinema should makes you feel you are kind of dreaming even if it's totaly real. Dogma and rules does not assure you are making a masterpiece

  20. I would say that a weakness of your video is the argument that the cinematography has "depth." Even Ebert directly contradicts you in the clip where he explains that the lens choice creates a "flat" shot: "Ozu prefered a very neutral flat realistic lens…" Perhaps the mise en scen creates the illusion of depth, but not the lens, which to my eye creates a super flat composition.

  21. Ever notice how in so many of Ozu's shots there is a gratuitous red object. I love his style – he follows his formula over and over and somehow it works like an old and familiar object from childhood which holds our affection.

  22. Take a look at silent films, Ozu made these too. The early version of Ohayo was silent. Also John Ford, another filmmaker who started in the silents (as well as their cameramen), except Ford punctuates like the Pillow Shots, with people's faces. Both are very strong, but it's easy to see where during the editing of a commercial movie such shots can be cut. With Ozu, they make his stories breathe. Watch Tokyo Story about a dozen times then visit Onomichi, it's as unchanged as any Ozu location, you absolutely cannot NOT notice these 'pillow shots.' A single fishing boat put-put-putting along the channel, the train passing through town, the view from up on the hill. There were shots I didn't think I remembered, but kept looking at.
    In spoken language, the is doing two separate things, it is speaking, and it is conveying facial expression, but it doesn't do both at the same time. I learned this watching Conjugating the Banana at the Ann Arbor Film Festival back in the 70s. An actor is sitting at a table explaining all the grammatical uses and conjugations of 'banana', but clearly most of it is absurd. Then they repeat the shot, but all the gaps between words are removed. (It's like that old FedEx commercial really rapid talking), It takes a moment to figure out what's going on. The words stream rapidly and the actor's face is expressionless. Then they repeat the same shot again, this time with none of the words only the silent parts– the actor's face is going through all manner of contortions, all the expressions that only happened during the gaps in speaking. I've seen it on YouTube, and it's just the first shot, funny, but not amazing.
    Why does Ozu affect us so? When you learn about him, you find out that filmmaking was basically a job, he and his writer would get together, drink a lot of beer and crank out a script. The basic Ozu script is Dad's a widower and is worried that his daughter is getting old without getting married, he'd like to tell her, but he doesn't want her to feel unwanted…. The daughter is then shown talking to a friend saying that she'd like to get married, but she doesn't want dad to feel like she's abandoning him…. There's a nice young man….. Takes two hours. It's a very low key melodrama. So what's so special? It's probably the difference between using a weedwacker on the flowers and ikebana, you are definitely going to get many more amazing arrangements of cut flowers with the weedwacker, just as it's more 'dramatic' when Batman blows up the whole city…. But it's too much. Better one twig and one flower.
    Ozu's pillow shots may be the quiet pause between dialogue and action where we can pause to let our feelings breathe. Most commercial movies do this by hitting you over the head with the twenty variations of music score, "this is what you're supposed to feel now…' [an experiment might be to cut out all these shots and see how an Ozu movie feels, or take a Hollywood film and insert similar shots. I think it would be really interesting. I love going to test screenings, (but I've been too old for a while and they won't even let me ask for a ticket. When they don't have any music the effect is amazing, either the movie makes sense or it just looks like a bunch of shots and people talking. Maybe it you don't have the Ozu pillow shot pause, you'd need music at the end of scenes to convey what just happened.)

    I think you make a good point when you use The Tree of Life. I've seen Malick's movies and appreciate them, but I can also see where he's just stringing together just stuff, it's good film class 101, but hopefully you're over it by 102, or 201–or you're Terrance Malick and everybody is still talking about Days of Heaven.
    I don't think it helps to try to compare Ozu to other techniques and styles. They are just different, they do different things, but also they sometimes do the same thing for different reasons, or for the same reason… Maybe the camera movement in Birdman was too much, but it was also overused in The Conformist, but no body complained.
    I would argue that Ozu quite frequently does the same basic things, tells the same basic stories, the same basic way…. but he does this well, it's zen in that nothing has to be something it is not. He tells simple stories, reveals a bit about his characters, presents and resolves a small problem of life and because he slows it down, it's profoundly moving.
    You might even argue that Ozu is repetitiously quiet (formulaic?) in the opposite way as a Marvel movie is repetitiously loud and relentless. In this respect 30 Ozu movies can be watched multiple times but even kids are getting tired of Marvel stuff.

  23. Yasujiro Ozu's unobtrusive cinematography is quite beautiful. Every good cinematographer is first a good photographer.

  24. I'm saddened to say this but I haven't seen an Ozu film. I love Ingmar Bergman to the point where I have seen nearly every single film of his. Again, I don't mean to pit the two against each other. I like the films of Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, the Coen brothers, Federico Fellini (although he could be self-indulgent at times), Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino.

    But sadly, I've only recently learned about Ozu. That will have to change.

    After seeing this video, I'm going to need to see one now. You're right. Ozu's imagery is very refreshing from what I see of this video here. Thanks for the lovely video Andrew! ☺

  25. Man this guy can't make one video about a great director or movie without (baselessly) insulting other movies or directors. YOU DON'T NEED TO INSULT OTHER MOVIES TO MAKE A POINT THAT A MOVIE IS GREAT. That style of talking about movies and art is just stupid and doesn't do anything but offend people that like those movies.
    If you want an actually good video on Ozu and his cinematography, then watch Criswell's "The Depth of Simplicity". That video is actually about Ozu, and not how "hurr durr modern movies aren't as good as old ones".
    I do agree with alot of points that this video brings up, and there is definitely alot to be said (both good and bad) about Lubezki's cinematography, but he presents it in such and odd way, without using any good points to his statements imo.

  26. one of those movies whose every frame is beautiful is Edward Yang's "A Brighter Summer Day". 4 hours and there isn't a single bad frame

  27. Depth and composition are not cinematography…they are mise en scene, which is primarily a function of the director. (In this case, Ozu.)

    Cinematography is primarily concerned with lighting, film exposure and movement. The cinematographer on this film is Kazuo Miyagawa.

  28. Ozu's cinema doesn't tells always tells a distinct story. Because he isn't only trying to tell a story. He reveals artistic elegance in every frame of his. I think he himself found peace by looking at each and every one of his frames shots. I always thought he looked for peace.
    This is artistic greatness. This is artistic genius.

  29. There IS a moving/panning shot in Floating Weeds, ONE OF THE ONLY SUCH SHOTS in all of Ozu's films! This reviewer says there is not, at video counter 6:24. But near the film's opening, Ozu mounts his camera on the bow of the ship as it sails/pans past the harbor. Stationary camera, moving ship! Pure genius.

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