In celebration of the 120th anniversary of Yasujiro Ozu's birth on December 12, 2023, Academy Award-nominated director Daniel Raim follows up his Criterion Collection Documentaries, In Search of Ozu (2018) and Ozu and Noda (2019), with a feature-length portrait of the Japanese master.
In the Footsteps of Ozu explores Ozu's life and creative vision in his own words, including experts from the filmmaker's journals, diaries, poems, and rare audio interviews translated to English for the first time. Interviews with family members and key actors and crew members who worked in Ozu's films bring home the tension between the director's individualistic life journey and the formation of his cinematic style.
The documentary goes into the archives that house some of the physical treasures at the core of Ozu's moviemaking. There is something profound when an archivist brings out an artifact relating to an artist's work. In our film, the unveiling of precious objects relating to Ozu's career: the red "teleporting" teakettle, a teacup, Ozu's specially designed tripod, or the director's signature white hat, will be like talismans that will help bring Ozu's artistic legacy to life.
The film will have a uniquely Western perspective and ask why most of Ozu's films weren't widely seen until the 1970s – especially during a time in the 1950s and 60s when there was a hunger for arthouse fare in America and Europe. While Ozu's films were not as formally challenging as Michelangelo Antonioni, Andy Warhol, or Alain Resnais, what was the reason Tokyo Story (1953) didn't have its premiere in New York until 1972? Why did Shochiku think Ozu's work was "too Japanese" for Western audiences? How do films that were once characterized as "too Japanese" continue to impact filmmakers worldwide?
In the Footsteps of Ozu shines a light on Ozu's influence on world cinema through interviews with directors deeply influenced and inspired by the grandmaster. We hope to interview Claire Denis, Mike Leigh, Wim Wenders, Aki Kaurismaki, Terence Malick, Barry Jenkins, Jim Jarmusch, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Kogonada, Paul Schrader, and Kelly Reichard.
The tension between these two interwoven themes, tracing the origins of Ozu's unique filmmaking aesthetic, and his influence on contemporary filmmakers from across the globe, will help unlock the keys to Ozu's art.
In the Footsteps of Ozu will be produced in conjunction with an exhibition of Ozu's life and career, featuring rare, behind-the-scenes photos from his films in the lobby of the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library, located in Beverly Hills in 2023. We hope that the film and exhibition will coincide with a film series of Ozu's work. Stay tuned.