the most Japanese of all film directors isn’t cool in Japan anymore.
I don’t think that any of Ozu’s post-WWII work was ever “cool” in Japan, if by cool you mean trendy with the young and/or hip.
John Ford and William Wyler aren’t ‘cool’ in the US anymore, either. The long history of the pejorative ‘Capra-corn’ suggests he hasn’t been cool in a long time either. I think it’s safe to say that few directors whose best works were in black and white are very cool today.
This reminds me a bit of the filmography on The Ipcress File - a very large number of shots in that movie were framed by foreground objects while the action went on in the background, much like what this director was doing with doorways and corridors.
Same thing as I said above, were those guys ever cool to non-cinephiles? Saying “anymore” implies that they once were.
Edit: Are you conflating cool with popular? Because undeniably Ozu, Ford and Wyler were very popular in their day. (Select films still probably qualify as popular.) But I don’t think (with the possible exception of Ozu’s pre WWII films) they were ever considered that cool.
Though one also needs to consider the question of popular with whom. For certain Ozu was respected and well liked by other directors and by critics—he won the Kinema Junpo critics’ award for best film three years running—but even before the war, when he was making more obviously commercial films, Shochiku was feeling that he wasn’t quite living up to his commercial potential.
I can imagine Ford being cool, in a Scorsese sort of way.
Hmmm, well there’s so many subjectivities and ambiguities here, it’s probably impossible to really say something with certainty. Thinking about it a bit more, I do have to admit that many of his films with John Wayne would have been cool with contemporary teenagers. I may have given Ford too little credit because I think the “cool” factor was in his star, not the director.
I’m terrible at retaining info about box office (don’t really give a shit) but I thought that most of Ozu’s later work was very popular within Japan.
Admittedly, so am I. I’m just going by what I remember, which can always be wrong.
At this point, I feel the need to throw in a plug for Ozu’s silent work, which I feel the original post does a bit of a disservice by lumping in with the more stylistically rigid later works. (A style which, though present in bits in pieces throughout his career, I’d argue really only came to the fore in his last 16 or so films.) These early films are still recognizably Ozu, but it’s a somewhat different Ozu whose tone is frequently quite a bit lighter and is prone to extended slapstick scenes.
(Despite being acclaimed as the most Japanese of directors, he was also heavily influenced by Hollywood, and nowhere is it more obvious than in his silents.)
For those interested, a fragment of his silent work:
Another important element in Ozu’s films is his muse, the wonderful actress Setsuko Hara, She plays the three Norikos in Late Spring, Early Summer and Tokyo Story. Her Noriko characters are the archetypal dutiful daughter in three post-war Japanese families.
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