Despite a flourishing industry, from the 1920s, Japanese cinema remained ignored by the West for a long time. Japanese industry did not export its cinema, the leaders of the major Japanese majors deem it too airtight for Westerners, and Westerners did not bet on it. Following a terrible earthquake that destroyed a large part of Tokyo and its studios in 1923, a breach opened in which the American and European cinematographic industries rushed to finally diffuse their productions. Lang, Murnau, Sternberg, Walsh, Lubitsch, Stroheim became models for young Japanese filmmakers. From fmovies-online.com you can now have the best choices.
Beginning of Ozu
At the beginning of his career, Ozu carried these influences, handling emotion, co-brewery and the trivial with talent as a gagman for the firm Shochiku. The comedies and then the shomin-geki (domestic dramas) that he makes make him the showcase of the studio and make him famous. But of this celebrity, nothing, or almost, filters beyond the borders of the country. The distance, geographic and cultural, did not allow Ozu to reach cinemas and audiences outside of Japan.
American Historian point of view
It was in any case only after the years 1936-45 that American historians like Donald Richie and Joseph L. Anderson were finally able to account for the exceptional richness of this cinema and in particular the interest of the films of Ozu within Japanese culture. In 1950, the representative of Italia Film in Tokyo noticed Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa and recommended him to the Venice Film Festival. He received the Golden Lion in 1951 then the Oscar for the best foreign film. It is the birth certificate of Japanese cinema for Westerners, whose eyes are emerging. Unfortunately and despite certain attempts to bring Ozu out of the shadows, among others that of Donald Richie who introduced him to the Berlin festival in 1963, the filmmaker will not take the road to the West like Kurosawa or Mizoguchi. The motive is without appeal: the character considered as fundamentally Japanese of Ozu, “his immobile images” (D. Richie) would remain impervious to a Western audience. In the word Ozu is too Japanese.
Japanese films festivals
While more and more “visas” are granted to Japanese films for festivals, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi arrives in theaters in the West in their wake, all kinds of films. Their common points: kimonos, samurai, geishas and great historical epics. Besides, the cinema of Ozu would find it difficult to find its place, he who only paints his contemporaries, in a tightening of everyday life, far from the exoticism that Westerners love. Yet, in 1963 and 1972, the Cinémathèque française screened some of its films (Henri Langlois. Passing extracts from Mizoguchi, Kurosawa and Ozu, I praise the first two at the expense third, while I see that Ozu is completely crushing them. A reel of Ozu sandwiched between Kurosawa and Mizoguchi made me understand his genius. But French critics remain almost silent on the filmmaker, a tiny number of articles are devoted to him and only a few film buffs know his films.
This strategy must also go through a greater effort to promote artists including by associating local stars with the release of films like The March of the Emperor whose voice-over was provided by the megastar.