This year marks the 120th anniversary of Japanese filmmaker Yasujirô Ozu’s birth, 70 years since the release of his masterpiece TOKYO STORY (1953) and 60 years since his death.
To mark the occasion, BFI Southbank has announced a major new season, A FAMILY AFFAIR: THE FILMS OF YASUJIRŌ OZU, exploring the principal theme that dominated his finest films: family life.
Titles screening will include I WAS BORN, BUT… (1932), A STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS (1934), THERE WAS A FATHER (1942), LATE SPRING (1949), THE FLAVOUR OF GREEN TEA OVER RICE (1952), TOKYO TWILIGHT (1957), EQUINOX FLOWER (1958), LATE AUTUMN (1960), AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962) and many more. In addition to Ozu’s own film, the season will feature a look at Ozu’s extensive influence and inspiration.
The centrepiece of the season will be a BFI Distribution re-release of TOKYO STORY (1953), Ozu’s celebrated masterpiece which ranked 4th in Sight and Sound’s Greatest Films of All Time poll in 2022 and has been beautifully restored for its 70th anniversary. The re-release will play at BFI Southbank and in select cinemas nationwide from 1 September, with a special screening at BFI IMAX on 24 September.
In its contemplation of tradition and modernity, and its portrait of family as a microcosm of a changing society, Ozu’s most acclaimed film is of a piece with the magnificent work he produced in his final decade – refining his style to such a beguilingly simple form, emphasising gesture over action, with each moment building towards a quietly devastating denouement.
The film will also be the subject of BFI Southbank’s regular PHILOSOPHICAL SCREENS event series, which explores cinema through a philosophical lens, on 18 September. In this event, film philosophers Lucy Bolton, Ben Tyrer and Catherine Wheatley will consider what the film shows us about impermanence and tradition, and about self-centredness and our duty to others.
Divided into six thematic strands, the BFI Southbank season kicks off with AN AUTUMN EVENING WITH YASUJIRÔ OZU on 4 September. Season curator Ian Haydn Smith will be joined by academic Jinhee Choi and other guests to discuss the style, themes and enduring legacy of Ozu, with emphasis on the films featured in the season but also shining a light on his wider body of work – much of which is available now on BFI Player.
Other special events during the season will include an afternoon of illustrated talks and discussions on 16 September; THE ANATOMY OF OZU will explore his key collaborators, consider the use of humour in his work as well as look at the immense impact his oeuvre has had on generations of filmmakers.
For those audiences wanting to delve even deeper into the work, a four-week course, CITY LIT AT BFI – OZU: CINEMA OF EVERYDAY LIFE , led by Professor Stacey Abbott, will examine the richness of Ozu’s career, considering why his films have lasting impact and reflecting upon the relationship between his distinct aesthetic approach and his tales of common people.
From his early silent and sound films, through to his limited output during the Second World War and his acclaimed late period, Ozu perfected a style that stripped away unnecessary plot mechanics and camera movement. In doing so, he produced a cinema whose surface simplicity belies character studies of depth, warmth and, on occasion, humour.