Monday, January 9, 2012

UK novelist takes on Richie and Schrader in new Ozu book "Noriko Smiling"

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.

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