Days of Youth (1929)

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Days of Youth occupies a difficult place in Ozu’s filmography, being his eighth film but only the first one to actually still exist, so it’s impossible to judge how far his skills had actually developed to that point; all I can really gather is that this was apparently his first proper feature (all the othes having been shorts). Within the context of his later films, of course, it obviously looks kind of “early”; Ozu hadn’t become “Ozu” yet (if you’ll pardon me using that formulation again), and though the BFI DVD’s booklet essay does point up some common themes with his later work, the differences are perhaps more striking. HIGH-ANGLED CAMERA PANS! TRACKING SHOTS! CAMERA MOVEMENT GENERALLY! The sort of thing that he eventually ditched. Also, this is the age of Ozu the fan of American pop culture when he wasn’t afraid to own up to that influence; witness the big poster for Borzage’s 7th Heaven featured prominently. Anyway, the story involves two college chums, Watanabe and Yamamoto, and the girl they both fancy, Chieko. Watanabe is über-confident to the point of brashness, actually to boorish lack of consideration; Yamamoto is much more reserved, a well-meaning but uptight klutz. Of course, neither man factors what Chieko might think of them both into consideration… All this is perfectly genial, of course, but the end result is kind of minor even so; Ozu’s material is kind of thinly spread over 100+ minutes and could’ve been tightened to something much shorter. My main issue with the film, though, was the score by Ed Hughes (which Ozu obviously can’t be blamed for); however much he may talk in the DVD booklet about the film’s rhythms influencing his music for it, the end result struck me as bizarrely tone-deaf to the fact that the film basically is, you know, a comedy. You’d barely guess it from Hughes’ score. Hoping the rest of his work on these BFI discs is more fitting…

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