by Chris MaGee
Many of you either were first exposed to the films of Yasujiro Ozu because of film historian Donald Richie and screenwriter/ director Paul Schrader, or you've subsequently tracked down their seminal books on the Japanese director - Richie's "Ozu" and Schrader's "Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer". These two volumes have shaped the way Westerners watch such films as "Tokyo Story", "Late Spring", "Floating Weeds" and many, many more. Now, though, UK novelist Adam Mars-Jones is taking on Richie and Schrader with a new book titled "Noriko Smiling".
Mars-Jones, author of such novels as "Pilcrow" and "Cedilla", is challenging the rarefied ideas around Ozu, one of the quintessential Japanese cinema masters. Taking Ozu's 1949 film "Late Spring" as a starting point Mars-Jones goes on to argue that Ozu wasn't as indifferent to history as many had thought, and that many tend to minimize the role of the post-war Occupation's policy of strict censorship on Ozu's later work.
The problem about taking on Richie and Schrader is that Mars-Jones doesn't seem to have a lot of experience writing about or researching Japanese film. As Leo Robson points out in his review in Guardian, Mars-Jones admits to not "...being an expert on Japanese film," and also saying "I don't pretend to be an expert on Japanese family structure." That might be something Mars-Jones should take a look into before taking on Yasujiro Ozu. Then again, we've yet to read his book. If anyone does, please let us know in the comments.