The Emperor’s Birthday Intertitle


It’s the Emperor’s birthday! Does the Emperor always get born today, or does it vary from emperor to emperor? I suppose it must. If I’m honest, I wasn’t even sure there still was an Emperor, but there it is in my calendar so it must be true. I sort of suspect that appearing in calendars is the most important role he’s trusted with nowadays.

Must kind of suck, having your birthday so close to Christmas. But I expect being the Emperor makes up for it.

This intertitle is from Ozu’s PASSING FANCY, which David Bordwell reminded me to watch. Being an early-ish Ozu, the people still look past the camera rather than into it during shot-reverse-shot conversations, and there are more visual gags. Those who know Ozu via TOKYO STORY may have trouble picturing these visual gags. There’s a bit with a small boy waking up his dad with a blow to the shin from a heavy club that’s almost Tom & Jerry in its violence — but it’s delivered with slow ceremony — the shin is carefully positioned, the club weighed, aim taken — that’s more Japanese. Or possibly Laurel & Hardy.


6 Responses to “The Emperor’s Birthday Intertitle”

  1. Ozu adored silent era comedy. In I Was Born But. . . the boys’ father becomes popular with his boss thanks to his ability to do a Stan Laurel imitation . Ozu was next to Chaplin and Tati one of the cinema’s greatest directors of children. It is also important to note that his style evolved considerably over the years. Ozu’s films do NOT “all look the same” in any way. Even the later ones.

  2. In a way it could be suggested that Ozu didn’t so much stop doing visual comedy, as moved it on to a more abstract plain — all the play with red kettles and beer bottles lovingly detailed by Mr. Bordwell is pretty funny once you know where to look!

  3. “Ozu adored silent era comedy.”
    Japanese cinema continued to be silent after everyone else stopped- Ozu made a silent gangster film- if you can imagine it!- in 1933.
    Compare the two versions of Floating Weeds to seehow cinema and Ozu changed over time.

  4. I didn’t realize how funny Ozu was until I saw Ohayô and I Was Born, But.

  5. It feels like there was a real attempt to create a myth of Japanese cinema when the west finally caught on to it — we didn’t get the variety of stuff that was out there. So Ozu was neglected, and his funny stuff more neglected still.

    I’ve seen Dragnet Girl — pretty cool, though not as jazzy as the title sounds.

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