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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

OHAYO / GOOD MORNING (1959)

Jasujiro Ozu, Japanese master of the quietly devastating domestic drama, is probably not the first name that comes to mind when you think fart jokes. But this deliciously funny sit-com (about kid brothers who refuse to speak until Dad buys a tv set) revels in them, getting insightful laughs from the very same themes Ozu typically treats with respectful melancholy. (It’s not unlike the relationship between Eugene O’Neill’s AH, WILDERNESS, with it’s proto-‘Father Know Best’ format and his devastating reworking of the same basic materials in his masterful LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT.) Set in the suburban tracts of tight single-unit homes, gossipy neighbors, and impossibly stubborn modern kids; all the narrative & stylistic ingredients you’d expect to find in late Ozu are here. Low camera position, splashes of red in every shot, those mysterious contemplative interstitial shots, glancing movement within the stillness of boxed compositions: now all subtly re-timed into comic mode. A formal etiquette designed to create misunderstandings, men who escape home to drink a bit too much in bars, disrespectful kids, fathers worried about their unmarried daughters, perfectly matched couples who won’t admit they’ve fallen in love: all repositioned for rueful comedy. But don’t hold in the laughs, the film is also LOL funny with lovely perfs from many Ozu regulars and exceptional kid performers. And, yes, farts; lots & lots of farts. (This just has to be Eddie Murphy’s favorite Ozu.)

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