German director Wim Wenders travels to Japan to explore the world of one his “masters” in cinema, Japanese celebrated film director Yasujirô Ozu. Sequences of Wenders’ view of Japan alternates with encounters and interviews with crew and cast-members of Ozu’s films.
Werner Herzog and Chris Marker comment on the many ways to see Ozu’s work. Wenders visits Ozu’s tomb, meets the great actor Chishu Ryu and cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta. His “pilgrimage” becomes a diary of a visit to Tokyo “without Ozu”, and a commen full of melancholy and nostalgia upon Japan’s fate since Ozu’s time. He says: “I speak to you of the most beautiful films of the world. I speak of what I consider to be a Lost Paradise of cinema.”
In this ‘diary’, Wenders tried to relate his impressions of Tokyo to those he had gleaned from the work of the late, great Yasujiro Ozu. No mere travelogue, the film is like a less complex version of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, with Wenders’ ideas fewer and less fruitful than his images. His eye for the bizarre, as sharp as it is selective, revels in long, engrossing sequences shot at a pachinko arcade, a golf stadium, a wax-food factory, and a rockabilly gathering; though his narration never admits to finding them absurd, he is clearly fascinated by the obsessive nature of his subjects’ recreational activities. More rewarding (if less funny) are interviews with Chishu Ryu (lead actor in countless Ozu films) and cameraman Yuharu Atsuta, who worked almost exclusively with Ozu for decades. Both are modest, intelligent and very likeable, but Atsuta steals the show, shedding valuable light on Ozu’s unique, contemplative camera style, and offering a profoundly moving personal valediction to the man himself.
Language(s):English, Japanese, German