Ozu, the ineffable

Darrell W. DAVIS*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter addresses the conceit of Ozu’s Zen Buddhist underpinnings, especially the impression his films leave on Western critics. Paul Schrader’s “transcendental” account of Ozu kicked off a cycle of mystical Oriental tropics in the 1970s. Because the Western discovery of Ozu’s films centered on the stately postwar masterpieces, Ozu’s early comedies and genre pictures were neglected; they did not feed into the model of ineffable otherness. Japanese critics have had little patience with this approach and have provided rich rebuttals, particularly Hasumi Shigehiko and Yoshida Kiju. Hasumi is intent on breaking the conflation of Ozu’s ascetic style with negative or abstemious nuances. In Ozu, Yoshida sees a cinema of restored superfluity, a presignifying world, with things seeming to look back at viewers. Bordwell, Thompson, Burch, and Richie have all rounded out Ozu’s reputation, sometimes picking up Zen cues but also broadening the oeuvre.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReorienting Ozu
Subtitle of host publicationA Master and his Influence
EditorsJinhee CHOI
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780190254971
ISBN (Print)9780190254971
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Donald Richie
  • Holiness
  • Home drama
  • Nonsense pictures
  • Paul Schrader
  • Shochiku studio
  • Spirituality
  • Transcendental style
  • Zen Buddhism


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