A tribute to ozu and his projections of the modern man in the metropolis, half a century later, by hou.
The challenge is to potray a coffee house culture in the teaist’s tradition. The meditation of Japanese teaism on the twirling hurriedness of instant coffee, between catching trains, which doodle madly inside the Japanese islands, scattering people to their destinations in doped circles. The outcome is melancholically beautiful.
From the restless silence of suppressed words inside the petit cozy home to the numbing silence of the colossal frictional murmurs of the city outside, the camera remains the most silent of them all; observing with the ripple-less, clear silence of zen. It refuses to comment or judge, following the wisdom of ozu.
The sounds of the film, are just reminders of the silence. Doors opening, trains halting, recorded voices, announcements, traffic, all accentuated against the gentle notes of jiang wenye(hope the spelling is correct) occasionally, flowing like an unnoticed secret stream, beneath the roads and houses stacked above the ground precariously; like a ghost of ozu’s era, lingering behind with nostalgia.
The magic of the film is that the thematic silence is not oppressive, but meditative. The intertwined silences of the self, family and the city is orchestrated into a melancholic symphony of silences.
Unfortunately, I missed the opening few scenes of the film. So I’m not aware of any references regarding ‘lumiere’ in the film, if any. But the film must also be a tribute to the lumiere brothers. The association of the sheer spectacle of people pouring from inside the orifices of trains, like ants, droning around the city like flies, is strikingly similar.
People of all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of tasks and purposes, living n number of stories, parading the roads just like yoko and her train-loving friend. The city comes alive as one big living, sighing organism, in the railroads full of mechanical monsters at their service. Where people become parts of a whole. Like blood cells pumped through the vessels. Coming and going in circles.
From the black, white and greys of ozu’s standard 55mm lens and academic ratio, the times have changed to hou’s super saturated, burned, flat tele images. But the quiet, unobtrusive observation of life as it is, the unforced restraint of the slender narrative, seems as if time itself is revealing itself. Time becomes the teller of its tale. Also the basic fascination for the moving image, the free-flowing dynamism of fully peopled frames, the precursor of cinema, comes back to haunt the screen. Café lumiere is indeed a trip in time across the changing time-scapes.
Animation Film Design
2nd yr PG
18th October 2007