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Like all the great directors, you’ll know within about five seconds if you’re watching a Yasujiro Ozu film. His directorial style is notoriously distinct and consistent, riddled with recurring motifs, preoccupations, themes, shots, and relationships. One of the themes that shows up time and time again in Ozu’s work is the dissolution of the family unit and the ways in which death and marriage have a tendency to rhyme.
Late Spring (1949) is about a daughter reluctantly choosing to get married because she thinks its what her father wants, and a father pushing for his daughter’s marriage because he thinks that’s what she wants. During a key scene in Late Spring, as Noriko Somiya finally accepts that her life is about to change, the camera cuts to a vase. This pillow-shot is, arguably, one of the most powerful and enigmatic shots in Ozu’s filmography. The cut is so disruptive that it is impossible not to try and unpack what it could mean: this perfectly mute, yet undeniably bold object.
From Paul Schrader to Gilles Deleuze, everyone has their take on the meaning of Ozu’s vase. But few do as succinct and lucid a job at summarizing the whole conundrum as The Nerdwriter. At the very least, it is a good place to start to try and unravel the riddle for yourself.
You can watch “Why Did Ozu Cut To A Vase?” here:
Who made this?
This video essay was created by The Nerdwriter, a.k.a. Evan Puschak. The Nerdwriter covers everything in the realm of art, culture, philosophy, science, and politics. Which is to say, uh, just about anything. You can check out The Nerdwriter’s eclectic back catalog and subscribe to their YouTube channel here. And you can follow Puschak on Twitter here.
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