Sunday, July 31, 2011

Do You Like Musical Comedy?

Obama is not just a disappointment, he is a danger. He is the most blatantly dishonest person I have ever witnessed in public life. — marymmccurnin
I seemed to be looking into the heart of the criminal—a cold thing, an awful thing. I said to myself, "I shall forget this, we shall all forget it; but it will be there. What I have seen is not an illusion. It is the truth. I have seen death in the heart of this people." For to look at the agony of a fellow-being and remain aloof means death in the heart of the onlooker. — John Jay Chapman, Coatesville Address (1912)
There is no reality in a single phrase uttered in politics, no meaning in one single word of any of it. There is no man in public life who stands for anything. They are shadows; they are phantasmagoria. At best they cater to the better elements; at worst they frankly subserve the worst. There is no one who stands for his own ideas himself, by himself, a man. If American politics does not look to you like a joke, a tragic dance; if you have enough blindness left in you, on any plea on any excuse to vote for the Democratic party or the Republican party (for at present machine and party are one), or any candidate who does not stand for a new era, — then you yourself pass into the slide of the magic-lantern; you are an exhibit, a quaint product, a curiosity of the American soil. You are part of the problem, and you must be educated and drawn forward to real life. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation, 1900
Adieu, fière cité. — Didon, in Berlioz's Les Troyens

Pause is religion. — John Jay Chapman
It is impossible to write a script unless you know who is going to play the part, just as a painter cannot paint unless he knows what colors he is going to use. Name stars have never been of much interest to me. What is important is the character of the actor. It is not a matter of how good an actor is; it is a matter of what he is as a human being. It is not the character he projects. It is what he really is. — Ozu, quote by missingozu
All beautiful human things are dated. Whores are always with us and virgins are born every day, but the world will never see another Setsuko Hara.
Any system of morality or conjunction of circumstances that tends to make men tell the truth as they see it will tend to produce what the world will call art, If the statement be accurate, the world will call it beautiful. Put it as you will, art is self assertion and beauty is accuracy. Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh. — John Jay Chapman, Causes and Consequences (1898)
The truth is, we ought to thank God when any man or body of men make the discovery that there is such a thing as absolute pitch, or absolute honesty, or absolute personal and intellectual integrity. A few years of this spirit will identify certain men with the fundamental idea that truth is stronger than consequences, and these men will become the most serious force and the only truly political force in their community. Their ambition is illimitable, for you cannot set bounds to personal influence. But it is an ambition that cannot be abused. A departure from their own course will ruin any one of them in a night, and undo twenty years of service. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation, 1900
The Devil is a cynic.
I say that our need is new life, and that books and resolutions will not save us, but only such disposition in our hearts and souls as will enable the new life, love, force, hope, virtue, which surround us always, to enter into us. — John Jay Chapman, Coatesville
Fight the mechanical. — Jacques Barzun
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortals, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. — C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
The world values the seer above all men, and has always done so. Nay, it values all men in proportion as they partake of the character of seers. The Elgin Marbles and a decision of John Marshall are valued for the same reason. What we feel in them is a painstaking submission to facts beyond the author's control, and to ideas imposed upon him by his vision. So with Beethoven's Symphonies and Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations — with any conceivable output of the human mind of which you approve. You love them because you say, These things were not made, they were seen. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
We all know individuals so harmoniously framed that we say, If theirs were the common temper of mankind, we should be happy. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
We may be sure that we are upon the edge of a better era when the old moral commonplaces begin to glow like jewels and the stones to testify. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
He becomes the thing he looks on, and he accomplishes something he does not understand. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
Do not think you are wasting your time, even if no one joins you. The prejudice against the individual is part of the evil you are fighting . . . . It may be that you must wait seven centuries for an audience, or it may be that in two years your voice will be heeded. If you are really a forerunner of better times, the times will appear and explain you. It will then turn out that your [act] was the key note of the national life. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
What you really want is that every man you meet shall drop his business and devote his entire life and energy to your cause. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
Your devoted slave.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Film director Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963), who was known as a gourmet, ate eel all year round. On New Year's Eve, he would leave his home in Kita-Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, and visit a well-known eel restaurant in Tokyo's Minami-Senju district with his friends to enjoy a whole skewered eel. When most people traditionally eat year-crossing noodles on New Year's Eve wishing for a thin and long life, Ozu chose to eat eel apparently because he wanted to lead a long and full life. — Asahi Shinbun, Humans responsible for overfishing young eels, July 22, 2011.
Note to myself: Another New Year's Eve Party (missingozu)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Life Is Greater than Art

I want to portray a man’s character by eliminating all the dramatic devices. I want to make people feel what life is like without delineating all the dramatic ups and downs. — Ozu, quoted by missingozu

Note to myself: Ambrose's Tumblr

Friday, July 22, 2011

Art Appreciation

It is better to like than to understand. It is better to dislike than to understand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What do I mean by character?

For a while now we have had a surfeit of art and a disappearing awareness of humanity. Ozu bucks that trend.

What do I mean by character?  Well, in a word, humanness.  If you don’t convey humanness, your work is worthless.  This is the purpose of all art.  In a film, emotion without humanness is a defect.  A person who is perfect at facial expression is not necessarily able to express humanness.  In fact, the expression of emotion often hinders the expression of humanness.  Knowing how to control emotion and knowing how to express humanness with this control––that is the job of a director. — Yasujiro Ozu, quoted by missingozu

Humanness is uncommon in public life. Our president, Obama, and our governor, Cuomo, lack humanness. Lincoln had an abundance of humanness.

Everything that exists is shaped in a meaningful form which provides acting man with the norm from which to draw the possible and the right. Freedom does not consist in following our personal or political predilections, but in doing what is required by the essence of things....

Let us be explicit. Have we ever stopped to consider exactly what takes place when the average superior assigns a task to a subordinate ... when the average school teacher teaches a class or maintains discipline ... judge decides a case ... priest champions the things of God ... doctor treats a patient ... bureaucrat deals with the public in his office ... industrialist directs his firms ... merchant supplies his customers ... factory-worker tends his machine ... farmer runs his farm? Is it really clear to us in each concrete process what the decisive intention and attitude was, and what its direct and indirect results? Was the truth in each case protected? Its particular validity trusted? Did the person encountered go away feeling that he had been treated with dignity, that he had been received as a person by a person? Did that other appeal to his freedom, all that is vital and creative in him? Together did they reach the heart of the matter, broaching it as it was meant to be broached, essentially?

The objection that these are private matters of no historical importance does not hold. Every historical process, even the most dynamic, is made up of just such situations, and the way they are dealt with is what gives each phase of history its particular mold....

The lack of human warmth and dignity in our contacts with the world is what chills the heart, and what lurks at the bottom of the growing feeling that things are no longer right.

The fact must be recognized and accepted that even the most commonplace social relations are not a matter of private morality, but the life blood of every historical process, and that on them will depend the health or death of our political and cultural existence.

— Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World [1950], 1998, pp. 210, 212–214.


In the deep doorway of the sacristy he saw a crouching figure—a woman, he made out, and she was weeping bitterly. He raised her up and took her inside. As soon as he had lit a candle, he recognized her, and could have guessed her errand.

It was an old Mexican woman, called Sada, who was slave in an American family. They were Protestants, very hostile to the Roman Church, and they did not allow her to go to Mass or to receive the visits of a priest. She was carefully watched at home,—but in winter, when the heated rooms of the house were desirable to the family, she was put to sleep in a woodshed. Tonight, unable to sleep for the cold, she had gathered courage for this heroic action, had slipped out through the stable door and come running up an alley-way to the House of God to pray. Finding the front doors of the church fastened, she had made her way into the Bishop's garden and come round to the sacristy, only to find that, too, shut against her.

The Bishop stood holding the candle and watching her face while she spoke her few words; a dark brown peon face, worn thin and sharp by life and sorrow. It seemed to him that he had never seen pure goodness shine out of a human countenance as it did from hers.

— Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

John Jay Chapman

Mayor Otis saw nothing important in the episode which has given him a Dantesque immortality.
We might be saved or damned by some act we deemed inconsequential.

The Measure of Human Perfection

Elementary things, which we ought to be able to take for granted, we no longer can take for granted.... What is needed today is something not only great, but ultimate.... I do not mean to follow a program of any kind, but to make the simple responses that always were and always will be right: Not to wait until someone in need asks for help, but to offer it; to perform every official act in a manner befitting both common sense and human dignity; to declare a truth when its hour has come, even when it will bring down opposition or ridicule; to accept responsibility when the conscience considers it a duty. — Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World [1950], 1998, pp. 213, 217, 218–219.

Notes to myself:

Dennis D. McDonald's review of Early Summer and Good Morning.
You want to grab her by the shoulders....
Donald Richie, Viewed Sideways: Writings on Culture and Style in Contemporary Japan.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Murdering to Dissect

missingozu quotes Wordworth

Thinking of you, I also tumbl.

The Young Oscar Wilde

God knows; I won't be an Oxford don anyhow. I'll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious. Or perhaps I'll lead the life of pleasure for a time and then—who knows?—rest and do nothing. What does Plato say is the highest end that man can attain here below? To sit down and contemplate the good. Perhaps that will be the end of me too.
Note to myself: David Bordwell, Good and Good for You
There are no explosions, violence, chase scenes, or over-the-top characters here. This is Ozu. This is one of the greatest films ever made. — JohnK, Tokyo Story (1953).