The Ozu Shot: Tokyo-ga and Late Spring

On Film / Short Takes — Apr 17, 2012

Few directors have as precise and recognizable a style as Yasujiro Ozu, sometimes called the father of Japanese cinema. Film scholars have studied and dissected that style for years, and filmmakers imitated it. One artist particularly moved by Ozu’s elegant way with the medium was Wim Wenders, who made a feature-length documentary tribute to the legendary director, 1985’s Tokyo-ga (available as a supplement on both of our editions of Late Spring). The film pays homage to Ozu with hushed cityscapes and evocations of everyday Japanese lives, only occasionally interpolating a scene directly about him. Here, Yuharu Atsuta, cinematographer on many of Ozu’s films, talks about just how the director created his signature style of shot (sometimes called the “tatami shot”), distinguished by a still, low camera, and Ozu’s preferred use of a slightly distortive 50 mm lens (which Wenders has said led to his own experimentation with lenses).