Family has always been the preferred subject of Yasujirô Ozu; the subtle daily dynamics of the typical Japanese home, and the small moments of drama that may be glimpsed as a fly on the wall. Or perhaps, more accurately, as a fly hovering three feet from the floor: where Ozu’s static camera was always placed, emphasising the traditionally low perspective of Japanese seating and providing us, quite literally, with floor seats to the action as it quietly unfolds. And it makes sense that Ozu would choose family, as the central ideological foundation upon which Japanese society is built, to subsequently build his films around.
More specifically, the evolution of the conventional family dynamic when faced with the pervasive ideas and values of the modern world – particularly, those of the West. Japan at the time was undergoing some fundamental changes in the structure of its households, with more and more families assembling and reassembling in a way that would follow the Anglo-American ideal; that being a family made up of parents and children and possessions, with the older generation gradually removed from this unit. Not to mention the decline in family businesses or joint occupations, and increase in married women seeking careers outside the home.
Just as the family plays an integral role in Ozu’s films, so it is pushed forward as the central theme of their promotional material. These posters look to feature every member of the family in question, in much the same way that today’s mainstream posters might cram in images of every cast member. The typical poster size in Japan was and is still known as B2, measuring 20 inches by 29 inches; much more rare are the following examples, known as STB or “Taketan” posters, which stretch out the typical height to 58 inches – so, two normal posters stacked vertically to create a tall banner that might be hung on the side of a building.
Only a small number of these posters were printed for each title, and as such they have become sought-after among poster collectors with a much higher value than standard B2 posters. They were introduced in the late 1950s and phased out in the mid 1970s due to environmental concerns, since the posters would often fall down and litter the streets along which they were placed.
The examples shown here – Ozu’s Tokyo Twilight (1957), Floating Weeds (1959), The End of Summer (1961) and An Autumn Afternoon (1962) – depict the latter stages of the great master’s career in beautifully hand-painted colours and shades.