Following this essay, we watched the two films and had a discussion. These are some pointers to explore from some of the some broad themes we touched upon:
Bresson’s Pickpocket as a meditation on hands– hands as a tool for theft, hands for prayer.
Ozu’s films are more like a painting in terms of composition. He used music. His films had a polyphony of voices unlike Pickpocket’s interiority of one man. All Ozu’s characters were given importance and worked in a harmony to achieve a sense of truth or resolution. Ozu’s films also had a lot of different kinds of characters, and sounds (such as trains, every day conversations, movement)
Ozu has more composition, stillness, movement becomes defined around that stillness– the camera remains as people go about their daily chores, a frame of a train returning and a shot of the house we visited this morning brings us to a change of time, and often a lot has changed in the lives in this timeframe as well.
Bresson has more movement, orchestration, fragmentation. The camera not only moves but breaks the whole into parts. The scenes where the pickpocket learns how to, well, pick a pocket more skillfully, it almost feels like a dance, an orchestration of the hands achieving a new skill. The hands must also become more ‘agile’ or nimble to achieve this.
Ozu: lack of plot, the same story comes to us in different ways– the daughter from Late Spring is the mother in Late Autumn, a circularity of feeling is transferred from one story to another. In each film some idea of ‘truth’ (not a literal truth, but as essence of life) comes through acceptance. Acceptance of loss, death must turn into a celebration of life– is this the Eastern/ oriental spirituality that was being touched upon in the essay?
In Bresson, a sense of feeling or the way out of numbness comes through faith. A man who must resort to being a pickpocket because society has failed him, suddenly wants to ‘feel’ again.
Ozu and Bresson, some binaries:
Wholeness vs, fragmentedness
simplicity vs complexity
universal truth vs an individual sense of realization
In Ozu, the sense of truth comes in an everyday act. Characters come to a sense of truth, a passing of time, the peeling of an apple is suddenly not just an act of uncovering the fruit, it becomes an act of uncovering the truth– the absence of the daughter must come to be accepted and everyday movements and habits must be readjusted to this new truth.
The folding of clothes is like the folding of chapter, a turning of the page to go further in the book.
In the journey of the pickpocket, there is a meditation. The agency of change or realisation is led by an event, a series of happenings. Plot, occurence in not incidental, like it is in Ozu, it becomes very important to the character’s transformation.
Ozu has a space for the feminine, there are also middle class characters
While Bresson, Kurosawa have characters from all walks of life, but often the masculine takes the centrestage in the narrative
– Diti Pujara’s notes from a Hangout call with Kiran Rajhans, Shashank Walia and Jasdeep Singh on 25 April 2020