"When a director works with a scriptwriter they must have some habits in common. Otherwise they wouldn’t get along at all. With Noda and me, we see alike about staying up late and drinking, and things like that. That is the most important thing." — Yasujiro Ozu on Kogo Noda

Lifelong friends and collaborators, Ozu wrote more than half of his films with Noda, including every picture from Late Spring in 1949 to his final film, An Autumn Afternoon, in 1962. Donald Richie detailed their working relationship in his book on Ozu:

Their method of work was always the same: to go someplace and stay up late drinking until the ideas began to come. Noda later remembered the various places they worked: “We used to sometimes work in a bar named Fledermaus in Nishi-Ginza, or we’d go down to an inn called Nakanishi in Yugawara. We locked ourselves in an inn in Chigasaki and wrote Late Spring.” Later Ozu bought a mountain house in Tateshina, and there they wrote all the films from Early Spring on. According to Noda:

One scenario usually took us from three to four months, that is, if we weren’t adapting something [as they did in the case of The Munekata Sisters, Floating Weeds, and others] but were working from scratch. That’s how long Tokyo Story took. We did it at this inn in Chigasaki. It was more a boarding house [yadoya] than an inn [ryokan]. We had this eight-tatami room which looked out on the east and south to a long garden and had good sunshine. The buds came out, then the flowers, then the fruit, and we still weren’t finished. Whenever we went for a walk we’d do the shopping. Ozu used to buy meat and make hamburgers. And we drank a lot, too. By the time we’d finish a script we’d sometimes have over a hundred big empty sake bottles—though our guests would help drink them up, too. Ozu used to number all the bottles. Then he’d count them and say: “Here we are up to number eighty already and we haven’t finished the script yet.”

There is a note of triumph in the diary at the conclusion of Tokyo Story: “Finished. 103 days; 43 bottles of sake.” Ozu not only drank more than perhaps any other major film director, he saw in this habit a source of his artistic strength. Usually Ozu’s comments in the diary that he and Noda (and anyone else who happened to be there) kept were confined to poetical remarks about the weather (in the most arcane of kanji) and an accounting of how much of which kind of alcohol he had drunk that day (he preferred scotch, but he also drank sake and relatively inexpensive Japanese whiskeys). In an entry of July 7, 1959, however, written in elegant imitation of classical forms, he observed, “If the number of cups you drink be small, there can be no masterpiece; the masterpiece arises from the number of brimming cups you quaff.” He descends from these heights in the following line: “It’s no coincidence that this film [Floating Weeds] is a masterpiece—just look in the kitchen at the row of empty bottles.”

"I follow the general fashion in ordinary manners and moral laws in serious matters, but in art I follow myself. Therefore I won’t do anything I don’t want to do. Even if something is unnatural and I like it, I’ll do it. I don’t particularly approve of myself for this, and I know it isn’t reasonable; nonetheless, there it is. From this comes my individuality—and this is most important to me… Although I may seem the same to other people, to me each thing I produce is a new expression, and I always make each work from a new interest. It’s like a painter who always paints the same rose… Rather than tell a superficial story, I wanted to go deeper, to show the hidden undercurrents, the ever-changing uncertainties of life. So instead of constantly pushing dramatic action to the fore, I left empty spaces, so viewers could have a pleasant aftertaste to savor."

Yasujiro Ozu
December 12, 1903 — December 12, 1963

Tokyo Story — dir. Yasujiro Ozu

Bar hopping with Ozu.

Filmmakers as children: Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Yasujiro Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jacques Tati, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Stanley Kubrick.

That 1963 disappearance was a scandal. She had been the most beloved of film stars, her handsome face, accepting smile, known to all. And then, suddenly, rudely, without a word of apology, she was going to disappear—to retire.

Here, where the stars hang on, voluntary retirement is unknown, particularly for one the caliber of Setsuko Hara. She had become an ideal: men wanted to marry someone like her; women wanted to be someone like her.

This was because on the screen she reconciled her life as real people cannot. Whatever her role in films—daughter, wife, or mother—she played a woman who at the same time, somehow, was herself. Her social roles did not eclipse that individual self, our Setsuko.

— Donald Richie, Japanese Portraits

Setsuko Hara
Born June 17, 1920

Five Portraits by Yasujiro Ozu
1941 — The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family
1942 — There Was a Father
1947 — Record of a Tenement Gentleman
1951 — Early Summer
1960 — Late Autumn

Setsuko Hara and Yasujiro Ozu on the set of The End of Summer.

FilmYasujiro Ozu
"I portray what should not be possible as if it should be possible, but Ozu portrays what should be possible as if it were possible, and that is much more difficult.” — Kenji Mizoguchi