Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ozu: The pathos of things

Ozu's Tokyo Story
I made an interesting cinematic connection when reading a piece in the UK Guardian yesterday. The article, an edited extract by Oliver Burkemen from his book 'The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking', was titled 'Failure can be Inspiring: be positive, stay focused on success, we tell ourselves'. But the true path to contentment may lie in learning to be a 'loser'. Burkeman adopts the Stoic view of life: the ideal state of mind is tranquility – “not the excitable cheer of success”. In introducing his thesis Burkeman relates that there is a Japanese expression, mono no aware, that roughly translates as ‘the pathos of things’ and captures, in Burkeman’s words, a “kind of bitter-sweet melancholy at life’s impermanence – that additional beauty imparted to cherry blossoms, say, or human features, as a result of their inevitably fleeting time on Earth”. Yasujiro Uzo immediately came to mind, and that expression seems the essence of his cinema. Uzo’s pathos also imbues the prosaic with this bitter-sweetness: clothing drying on the line in a back-yard, idle smoke-stacks against a clear sky, or the simple joys of a bus-ride.