Sunday, January 17, 2010

The 1st and Last Tell Us All...

An important and useful way of deciphering the meaning of a good film is to notice and analyze the first and last shots of the film. A visually proficient director can embed the entire film into the two images he chooses to begin and end it. (Think about La Dolce Vita with the flying Christus and the monster from the sea.)
With this in mind, what is shown at the beginning and end of Ozu’s Floating Weeds?
The film centers around the master of a traveling, Old Japan style, theater troupe, Komajuro. He is a strong and stubborn man, set in his ways and very unwilling to change. We see the evidence of this being his story in the very first shot, which is of an old lighthouse, a symbol of constancy, duty and immovability. As the characters are introduced, the past and the old war are repeatedly referenced, solidifying the idea of generational conflict. Komajuro is a man who lives in the old ways; he is domineering, controlling of women even to the point of beating them and exists in a world of tradition – he will not give up the dated style of theater despite it being unprofitable and out-of-fashion in modern Japan. Throughout the film, Komajuro is dragged into the present, fighting it the entire way. And it seems that in the end he may be a lost cause, unable to move forward into the new world that he despises but ultimately cannot escape. However, in the end, we see the confirmation of his change. The last shot is of a train, rolling forward, ever moving. Komajuro has found a way to move on, away from the past, and into the new world.
We would love to hear thoughts and insight into this great work from anyone who watched the film or saw it previously!~? Tell us what you thought!


jamesonnephi said...

With the thought of the first and last shot being a symbol for the entire film, share a example of a movie you love where the whole story was told in those two images.

Cameron White said...

I have some thoughts formulating on the topic, especially in regards to some of the Tarkovsky films we'll be watching. The Ozu film for this week (Floating Weeds) is not available on netflix (I'm serious, only The Story of Floating Weeds is), so I can't comment on that; but I'm glad you're starting this class off on the right foot as far as opening and closing images goes. It's certainly a useful way to begin a film analysis. I'll comment more explicitly in a separate posting that I'll have up as soon as I get some screencaps, but just to name a few:

El Sur
Andrei Rublev
My Neighbor Totoro
Young Mr. Lincoln
The New World