IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF OZU
A film by Daniel Raim
In the Footsteps of Ozu follows Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's rise from assistant cameraman at Shochiku Kamata Studios to one of the world's greatest and most influential filmmakers. Ozu left behind 32 pocket notebooks in which he recorded the events of his daily life, from 1933 until a few months before his death in December 1963, at age sixty. Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Daniel Raim (Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story) draws on Ozu's words and memories from journals, diaries, and rare audio recordings to explore the tension between the director's life and his unique cinematic style.
Filmed on Arri AMIRA and 16 mm film cameras to achieve visually stunning and poetic cinematography, and using evocative hand-drawn animation, In the Footsteps of Ozu journeys to places throughout Japan where the director lived, ate, drank, wrote his screenplays, and filmed his masterworks.
Footsteps humanizes this giant of cinema by capturing the humor, creative vision, and challenges in art and life that Ozu expressed in his notebooks. In one such notebook, known as the “Gourmet Notebook,” the director kept a record of his favorite restaurants, such as Okame (renowned for tempura) and Botan (famous for torinabe, or chicken hot pot). In addition to names and addresses, the Gourmet Notebook contains hand-drawn maps to these establishments. In Footsteps, Ozu’s words and drawings map his life.
The esteemed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up, Five Dedicated to Ozu) once said, "the material of cinema is human beings, and Ozu's human beings are the best that can be." To bring this premise to light, Raim conducts new interviews in Japan in 2022 with some of the last living cast members from Ozu's films, including Shima Iwashita (An Autumn Afternoon), Kyōko Kagawa (Tokyo Story), Ineko Arima (Tokyo Twilight), Masahiko Shimazu (Good Morning, Floating Weeds), Yoko Tsukasa (Late Autumn, The End of Summer), and Mariko Okada (An Autumn Afternoon).
In his films, Ozu lavished attention on people and the objects around them. In the Footsteps of Ozu visits archives housing physical gems central to the director's art. We watch as relics relating to Ozu's career—the bright red "teleporting" teakettle, the tripod he used to compose his famous low-angle "pillow" shots, the notebooks in which he meticulously planned his compositions—are revealed as keys to his artistic legacy. We see how Ozu used certain props—tea and sake cups, artwork, even tavern signs he designed himself—to express the themes of his deceptively simple films, especially his last ones, shot in color.
In a 2012 poll conducted by Sight and Sound, Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) was voted by 358 directors as "The Greatest Movie Ever Made." Footsteps examines the auteur's continued relevance through new interviews with contemporary directors. By tracing the origins and influence of his groundbreaking films, In the Footsteps of Ozu illuminates Ozu's art and its impact on future directions in cinema.