Pillow shot and others


The Only Son (1936), according to Noel Burch, is a “supreme achievement”. The reason he gives—as far as I can gather—is that this is not only a film that has pillow shots, but also a “pillow structure”.

The longest pillow shot Burch has described in length in his To the Distant Observer, p 179. A few details first. The scroll on the wall is not some “good-luck” roll; it is an apotropaic image to prevent the baby from crying during the night. Also, the frames on page 177 are all on the wrong side—one frame has actually text on it.

The shot lasts fifty seconds and it is very long, radical. The lighting change is most noticeable towards the end. My fellow viewer makes the strange remark that it is unjustified. What strikes me is rather the one with the closed door of the classroom—the son has left his students and gone borrowing money from his colleagues.

Due to several reasons, I think the use of sound in this first talkie of Ozu is quite good. Here is what he says,

Ingrained ways of making silents cannot be changed overnight, so glitches were inevitable. Even though I was well aware that talkies were a totally different ballgame, I couldn't help slipping back into style of silents. I was worried that after being four or five years behind others, I would never be able to catch up. However, now I realize how useful my persistence in making silents was to my future development.

Ozu’s use of signs is intriguing. He never even tried to be subtle. Okay, Joan Crawford is photogenic. But what is Lover Divine doing there?


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