Tuesday, 8 September 2015



Ozu's Good Morning is filled with moments of small talk like this: a recently out-of-work salaryman visits his friend and neighbour for no other reason than to talk about the weather - or rather, to pass the time of day. Of course, engaging in small talk is an act of friendliness, of maintaining a relationship with another person, but to the children of Good Morning, this is an alien concept. "Grown ups talk all the time," declares one boy in defiance of his father's demands that he be quiet. "'Hello. Good Morning. Good Evening. Have a good day. How far is it? Just a little way. Is that so?' Just a lot of talk!" He soon vows silence, having lost faith in the word, communicating only with his younger brother through a series of hand signals and shakes of the head.

But is this a better alternative? At school, the teachers remind the students that they have to pay their lunch money the following day, but the boys can't (or won't) verbally ask their parents. Instead, they ask physically, crudely acting out their request with a game of charades which leaves the adults mystified and the boys hungry. This is no good to anyone, but the boys continue on with their vow at all costs. "It'd be a dull world without such conventions," the boys' English teacher later says of small talk to their aunt, on whom he has a silent crush. "Yes, but the children don't know that." But they soon will, and when they finally get the TV they've been suffering for they immediately abandon their silence, and the next morning they're politely greeting the neighbours and proudly discussing the relative benefits of pumice stone and burdock on the ability to fart on cue with their friends, smiles beaming from their faces. Maybe words are stupid and pointless, but, like washing machines, they make life a lot easier.

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