Silent Film Music Pairing: Ozu + Bohren & Der Club of Gore

FILM: Days of Youth (Yasujiro Ozu, 1929) – 103min
MUSIC: Piano Nights/Beileied – Bohren & Der Club of Gore – 61min/35min

FILM: The earliest surviving film from Ozu. It doesn’t have many stylistic similarities with the the films we know and love him for, but there are glimpses of things like his pillow shots within the film. Instead of a focusing on family, the film focuses on two college boys as they compete for the the affections of the same girl. One is a slacker, more adept at skirt chasing, and the other is a basically a Japanese Harold Lloyd (complete with the same rimmed glasses!), more studious but no luck in romance or much else in life. It’s not until the later half of the film when the competition between the two men emerges as that is when the information the audience has becomes apparent to the characters that they are vying for the same girl. The film’s use of POV is uncharacteristic of Ozu but not necessarily a negative, especially when someone biffs it on skies we get to see the tumble from their first person. Some fun gags sprinkled throughout, but the film doesn’t call out for repeated viewings as much as his later stuff, at least for myself anyway.

MUSIC: The two most recent albums from German dark ambient jazz band Bohren & Der Club of Gore. This is a band whose style has remained consistent throughout so they might as well be continuations of each other, or even going back to the debut. With Beileid though, it is the first and only time so far that a track has featured vocals, and from Mike Patton! If you’re going to break instrumental tradition with the inclusion of a singer, you might as well get one of the best, or at least the guy who co-founded the record label who is releasing your album. The tempos remain slow throughout, and the jazz elements seem perfect for more moodier than usual noir piece.

COMBINATION: Pairing Bohren & Der Club of Gore with this film, Ozu’s The Freshman-esque comedy, gives the film a much more sinister, and a much more somber tone. It’s almost like we can feel the friendship between these two men be strained, and on another level the impending world war just around the corner. Watanabe’s crafty advances towards the female student are not as ingenuous and innocent as they might come across with the more appropriate music that Ozu preferred for his films. Close ups of Watanabe’s smiling face bring out the smugness, and those pillow shots, which are actually POV shots that resemble pillow shots, become tinted with yearning for something else. Mono no aware, the transience of all things, a concept integral to films like Tokyo Story, while not as readily apparent because of the comic nature of the film, plays as much a part of the failed dueling romances and is even more noticeable thanks to the “score”. And a quick note: the two albums do not cover the entire film so the last few minutes are a free for all as far as music choices go. -Jason Suzuki