Friday, February 2, 2007

February 2nd Log

2006, Jill Culton / Roger Allers / Anthony Stacchi, United States
Repeat Viewing, DVD

Open Season is an animated that does offers some pleasant surprises. Perhaps I was expecting something poor, but the film was surprising much better then I had anticipated it to be. There is a dazzling use of landscapes through the high-tech CGI-Animation giving the film a vibrantly energetic look and feel. The film avoids obvious references to pop-culture (something animated films like Shark Tale or Shrek are loaded with) and the overall story has heart without being forceful in it’s messages of friendship and growing older. The film’s least funny moments come from the “comic-relief” squirrel character, but the film does have a strong connection with the leads: a circus bear who is stuck in the wild (voiced by Martin Lawrence) and a fast-talking mule deer (Ashton Kutcher) that befriends him against the arrival of hunting season. The humor is mostly in good-fun and is effective for both adults and children. Open Season is far from perfect or in the class of the best animation, but it has more to offer then you’d think (or at least more then I expected).

1929, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan

Repeat Viewing, DVD

I just saw Days of Youth for the first time back in December, but decided to quickly revisit it with the latest Ozu Friday night. Days of Youth is the earliest surviving feature film from Ozu (he made seven prior films that have since been lost). It's a remarkable film to watch just to see how Ozu has grown as a filmmaker. His earliest work shares his love and influence of Hollywood comedies and perhaps few films express this more prominently then Days of Youth. Aside from the direct visual references (poster of Seventh Heaven and Claire Bow, or even a character that evokes physical similarities to Harold Lloyd), Days of Youth also shares the spirit of these Hollywood influences (most particularly the light-hearted romantic comedies of Ernst Lubitsch). Of course, Harold Lloyd's influence is evident and Ozu does reveal his early gifts as a visual comedian of sight gags (particularly in the second half of the film at the ski slopes). One of the joys of watching this film is just to observe how Ozu's trademark style and themes had not yet developed in his earliest features. While underneath the surface you can discover some of the roots, this film heavily contrasts his most familiar and memorable masterworks. The opening shots are something you'd never see in Ozu's postwar films, as Days of Youth opens with a circular-motion pan of a series of shots establishing the exterior environment and setting. His trademark "pillow shots" are shown here as point of view shots, and there are far more close-ups, tracking shots, and fades. This film lacks the pure mastery of visual space, composition, and patterns of Ozu's best films, but you can still find some definitive visual motifs (notably a brief shot of a train, and repetitive images of smoke pipes). Above all, Days of Youth is an enjoyable and charming comedy that blends itself as a buddy comedy, a slapstick comedy, and a romantic/love triangle comedy. At the core is a friendship that is shared during "the days of youth". This may be a minor film from Ozu, but it is a wonderful joy to watch both for the entertaining appeal of the film and the earliest surviving work from one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live.

>> More on Days of Youth @ A2P Cinema's Yasujiro Ozu website HERE


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