For the last 10 years, the Princeton Film Forum has attracted adherents from across the region to screenings of quirky independent, classic, and foreign cinema. Discussions with professors are held afterward and, if it is deemed appropriate, the movies themselves are provided with musical accompaniment.
Monday's session will be devoted to Yasujiro Ozu's Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? (1932). The renowned Japanese director is best known for his deceptively placid dramas, which lay bare the strain placed on traditional family dynamics by postwar capitalism and its attendant cultural shifts. But Ozu's earlier silent movies were lighter of heart, often focusing on rascally students who prefer goofing off to studying. He continued in this vein much longer than his contemporaries in Japan or elsewhere, and didn't give up on silent films until 1936 (he proved similarly reluctant to adopt color film, resisting until 1958).
Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? is typical of this period in Ozu's career, although it shifts from lighthearted romp to a more serious dissection of family and class - and the brief relief college offers from such pressures. The four male leads are impressively conversant in the facial tics and physical stunt work so necessary for silent comedy. Their antics may even prove more accessible to American audiences than Ozu's most famous movie, Tokyo Story, which is notoriously slow burning.
"This Ozu film is actually one of my favorite films [this year]," said Erika A. Kiss, founding director of the Film Forum University Center for Human Values. "It's about nostalgia and the fact that everyone loses a youthful innocence. It's a frat-house-style movie that appeals to those years when you were immature and there was a certain kind of friendship and a certain approach to life that you have to lose."
Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? is available on Hulu Plus and YouTube - as are much of Ozu's works, so long unavailable to most Americans - but it is difficult to enjoy at home because it is totally silent. No dialogue, and no music either. That makes the Film Forum's screening all the more appealing, as there will be live music from British composer Andrew Lovett and Nigel Smith, a professor in Princeton's English department.
Film Forum's theme this year is "Clock Work Mime" and subsequent entries will include Melancholia by Lars von Trier, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Battleship Potemkin. But Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? is the only screening of an Ozu film in this series, and the only opportunity to see one of the director's 33 extant films in the Philadelphia area in what is left of 2015.