OZU: 12 ROOMS
A film by Daniel Raim
Written & directed by Academy Award-Nominated filmmaker Daniel Raim, this brand-new immersive documentary feature marks the 120th anniversary of Yasujiro Ozu’s birth and is sanctioned by the Ozu estate and Shochiku.
The universally acclaimed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu died on December 12, 1963, the day of his 60th birthday. Since then, numerous attempts have been made to interpret his unique unwavering signature style. What makes Ozu's films so beloved by scholars, filmmakers, and cinephiles worldwide? Why is his 1953 film Tokyo Story considered "the greatest movie ever made," according to the British Film Institute's poll of movie directors?
In Ozu: 12 Rooms, audiences are taken on an immersive, visually-striking journey through the master director's life and cinematic oeuvre, from his silent classics to Tokyo Story and color masterworks such as An Autumn Afternoon - illuminating the visual genius of his work.
We travel with Ozu through twelve interconnected rooms, built on a stage in Japan and featuring archival gems from the director's moviemaking. In each room, specific aspects of Ozu's life and filmmaking career will be presented through installations and projections of film clips, archival treasures, rare stills of Ozu directing, never before seen home movies shot by screenwriter Kogo Noda, excerpts from Ozu's diaries and interviews, and new interviews conducted for this film with the director's family, actors, collaborators, scholars, and filmmakers.
By tracing the origins of Ozu’s life and groundbreaking films, this film explores and illuminates Ozu’s art and its influence on future directions in cinema.
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 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. Ozu: 12 Rooms explores the 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.
In a 2012 Sight and Sound poll, Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) was voted by 358 directors as "The Greatest Movie Ever Made." Ozu: 12 Rooms examines the auteur's continued relevance through new interviews with contemporary directors. We plan to reach out to Wim Wenders, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Aki Kaurismäki, Mike Leigh, Paul Schrader, Claire Denis, Sofia Coppola, kogonada, Kelly Reichard, Corneliu Porumboiu, and Barry Jenkins.
Room 1: OZU’S YOUTH
(Ozu's rebellious childhood and his love of cinema as a teenager
are explored through his own words and memories.)
Room 2: SILENT OZU
(from comedies to gangster films, Ozu directs silent masterpieces influenced by American movies. Ozu — along with Chaplin — was the last major director in world cinema to adopt sound filmmaking.)
Room 3: TOKKAN KOZO
(A study of how Ozu elicits remarkable performances from child actors, including the star of his silent comedies and socially aware films.)
Room 4: “THE MOST JAPANESE OF FILMMAKERS”
(Ozu refines his signature aesthetic minimalism.)
Room 5: WAR
(WWII's impact and influence on Ozu's life and creative output during the 1940s and 50s.)
Room 6: KINUYO TANAKA
(One of Japan's greatest movie stars appears in several Ozu masterworks. Ozu writes and produces her debut film as a director.)
Room 7: KOGO NODA
(Ozu and screenwriter Kogo Noda create 27 films together, including the Noriko Trilogy.)
Room 8: SETSUKO HARA
(Ozu's muse, the extraordinary Japanese actress Setsuko Hara,
is compared to Greta Garbo and captivates film fans long after her time.)
Room 9: COLOR
(Tthe master director leaps from black and white to color.)
Room 10: OZU’S MOTHER
(Ozu remains single throughout his life and lives with his mother,
who dies while Ozu and Noda write "An Autumn Afternoon," the director's final film.)
Room 11: CHISHU RYU
(Ozu remembers the great actor who appears in all his films,
and plays the father in his gently elegiac final film.)
Room 12: OZU
(The moment our doc has been building towards as we come face-to-face with Ozu.)
WHY “12 ROOMS”?
Ozu's life was marked by the number 12. He was born on 12/12/1903 and died 60 years later on his birthday on 12/12/1963. Essentially, we are discussing 12 key aspects of the director's life that are loosely chronological in nature.
Ozu: 12 Rooms draws from the director's diaries, letters to friends, rare audio recordings, and interviews. To play Ozu and read the narration, we hope to cast Lily Franky (known for his performances in Hirokazu Kore-eda masterpieces like Like Father, Like Son, and Shoplifters). Lily Franky would be an excellent choice for this role and will bring audiences closer to Ozu, the artist, and man.
STILLS AND CLIPS
We are excited to include 4K restorations of Ozu's masterworks. Additionally, all photographic and archival material will be scanned and presented in 4K UHD. Thanks to the Ozu estate, Shochiku, and Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, we have access to rare and never-before-seen stills of Ozu's life and work. A previously unseen 8mm archival film of Ozu directing TOKYO TWILIGHT (1957) will be included and could help draw an audience excited about seeing moving images of the master at work for the first time.
PRODUCTION DESIGN AND ARCHIVAL TREASURES
We aim to create 12 different environments (rooms) for each significant phase of Ozu's life and work. In collaboration with major Ozu archives, including the Kawakita Memorial Film Center and Kamakura Museum of Literature, we present archival treasures from Ozu's filmmaking, including Ozu's diaries, original screenplays, storyboards, and the same Contax stills camera Ozu used to photograph his striking self-portrait (the last image in our documentary).
PARTNERSHIPS, PRODUCTION, AND RELEASE PLAN:
The Criterion Collection commissioned Daniel Raim to produce a 46-minute documentary about Ozu in 2018.Raim is now working on an immersive feature-length documentary thanks to support from Criterion, Shochiku, and the Estate of Ozu based on some of the discoveries he made while making that short.
In December 2023, Ozu: 12 Rooms will be released to commemorate his 120th birthday. The Ozu estate has sanctioned the film, and Shochiku will provide film clips and stills.
We plan to submit the film for consideration at the Venice International Film Festival in September 2023 and the Tokyo International Film Festival in October 2023.
Made for fans of Japanese cinema and culture, cinephiles, film students, and the broader audience that loves and appreciates Yasujiro Ozu, we aim to produce a world-class documentary for film festivals, international theatrical releases, streaming platforms, 4K Broadcast, and Home Entertainment. Shochiku and NHK in Japan, Arte in Europe, The Criterion Collection, Janus Films, TCM, and HBO Max in the United States are all possible distribution partners.
In early 2023, we plan to start constructing the 12 rooms on a stage in Japan. Budget available upon reqiuest.
Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Daniel Raim attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Raim is known for his documentaries about overlooked cinema artists, including The Man on Lincoln's Nose, nominated for the 2001 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short Subject. Raim's 2015 documentary Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story premiered as an Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival, was nominated for The Golden Eye (L’Œil d'or, le prix du documentaire - Cannes), and acquired for distribution by Netflix. In addition to his theatrical films, Daniel has produced and directed 30 original documentaries for the Criterion Collection about cinema masters, including Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Aki Kaurismaki, Buster Keaton, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Jim Jarmusch. In 2019, Raim directed and produced the TCM Original Documentary Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers. In 2022, Raim’s new documentary feature, Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen, was released theatrically by Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber and is now streaming on Paramount+.
Co-Producer: Yuki Machida - Yuki worked with Raim on two short Ozu docs for The Criterion Collection - In Search of Ozu (2018) and Ozu and Noda (2019).
Additional producers, executive producers, Ozu scholars, researchers, and translators will collaborate on the film.