Nationality: Japanese. Born: Kyushu, 13 May 1906. Career: 1925—joined the Shockiku Kamata film studio acting school; 1929—first of many films for the director Yasujiro Ozu, Wakaki hi. Awards: Best Actor Awards, Mainichi Eiga Concourse, Japan, 1948, 1951, 1970; Tokyo Blue Ribbon Prize for Best Supporting Actor, 1951. Died: Of cancer, in Yokohama, Japan, 16 March 1993.
Films as Actor:
Wakaki hi (Days of Youth) (Ozu) (as student)
Rakudai wa shitakeredo (I Flunked, But . . . ) (Ozu) (as passing student); Sono yo no tsuma (That Night's Wife) (Ozu) (as policeman)
Umarete wa mita keredo (I Was Born, But . . . ) (Ozu); Seishun no yume ima izuko (Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth?) (Ozu) (as Shimazaki)
Tokyo no onna (Women of Tokyo) (Ozu) (as reporter); Hijosen no onna (Dragnet Girl) (Ozu) (as policeman); Dekigokoro (Passing Fancy) (Ozu) (as man on boat)
Haka o kowazuya (A Mother Should Be Loved) (Ozu) (as Hattori)
Tokyo no yado (An Inn in Tokyo) (Ozu)
Daigaku yoitoko (College Is a Nice Place) (Ozu) (as Amano); Hotori musuko (The Only Son) (Ozu) (as Okubo)
Todake no kyodai (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) (Ozu) (as friend)
Chichi ariki (There Was a Father) (Ozu) (as Shuhei Horikawa); Minami ni kaze (South Wind) (Yoshimura)
Nagaya Shinshiroku (Record of a Tenement Gentleman) (Ozu) (as Tashiro)
Kaze no naka no mendori (A Hen in the Wind) (Ozu) (as Kazuichiro Satake)
Banshun (Late Spring) (Ozu) (as Shukicki Somiya, the father)
Munekata shimai (The Munekata Sisters) (Ozu) (as Takachika Munekata)
Bakushu (Early Summer) (Ozu) (as Koichi); Karemen Kyoko ni kaeru (Carmen Comes Home) (Kinoshita)
Ochazuke no aji (The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice; Tea and Rice) (Ozu) (as Sadao Hirayama)
Tokyo monogatari (Tokyo Story) (Ozu) (as Shukicki Hirayama)
Nijushi no Hitomi (Twenty-Four Eyes) (Kinoshita)
Shoshun (Early Spring) (Ozu) (as Kiichi Onodera)
Tokyo boshoku (Twilight in Tokyo) (Ozu) (as Shukichi Sugiyama)
Higanbana (Equinox Flower) (Ozu) (as Shukichi Mikami); Muhomatsu no issho (The Rickshaw Man) (Inagaki) (as Mr. Yuki)
Ohayo (Good Morning) (Ozu) (as Keitaro Hayashi); Ukigusa (Floating Weeds; The Duckweed Story; Drifting Weeds) (Ozu) (as theater owner)
Akibiyori (Late Autumn) (Ozu) (as Shukichi Miwa, the uncle); Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru (The Bad Sleep Well; The Rose in the Mud; The Worse You Are, the Better You Sleep) (Kurosawa) (as Nonaka)
Yato kaze no naka o hashiru (Bandits on the Wind) (Inagaki) (as village priest); Kohayagawa-ke no aki (The End of Summer; Early Autumn; Last of Summer) (Ozu) (as a farmer); Gen to fudo-myoh (The Youth and His Amulet) (Inagaki); Ningen no joken III (A Soldier's Prayer) (Kobayashi) (as village elder)
Onna no za (The Wiser Age; Woman's Status) (Naruse); Samma no aji (Autumn Afternoon) (Ozu) (as Shuhei Hirayama)
Daikon to ninjin (Twilight Path; Radishes and Carrots) (Shibuya) (as Tokichi Tamaki)
Akahige (Red Beard) (Kurosawa) (as Yasumoto's father)
Nippon no ichiban nagai hi (The Emperor and a General) (Okamoto) (as Prime Minister)
Nihonkai daikaisen (Battle of the Japan Sea) (Maruyama) (as Gen. Nogi); Eiko eno kurohyo (Fight for the Glory) (Ichimura) (as Yonoshin)
When We Are Old (Iyoda)
Gubijinso (Ohyama); I Lived But (Inone); Ososhiki (The Funeral Rites; The Funeral; Death, Japanese Style) (Itami) (as the priest)
Otoko wa Tsuraiyo (Torajiro Shinjitsu Ichiro; Tora-San's Forbidden Love) (Yamada) (as Priest); Tokyo-ga (Wenders)
Sorekara (Morita); Kinema no tenchi (Final Take: The Golden Age of Movies) (Yamada) (as Tomo, studio janitor)
Otoko wa Tsuraiyo: Torajiro Salada kinenbi (Yamada); Marusa no Onna II (as retired monk)
Otoko wa Tsuraiyo: Toraijiro kokoro no tabiji (Tora-San Goes to Vienna) (Yamada) (as Gozen-Sama, Priest)
"Village of the Watermills" ep. of Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (Dreams) (Kurosawa) (as 103 year old man)
Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World) (Wenders) (as Mr. Mori)
Hikarigoke (Luminous Moss) (Kumai) (as judge)
By RYU: articles—
"Yasujiro Ozu," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 92, Spring 1964.
Interview with M. Tessier, in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 March 1978.
"Ozu et moi: reflexions sur mon mentor" (reprinted from Kinema Jumpo, June 1958), in Positif (Paris), January 1979.
On RYU: articles—
Obituary in Variety (New York), 22 March 1993.
Niogret, H., "Chishu Ryu," in Positif (Paris), June 1993.
Obituary in Skrien (Amsterdam), June-July 1993.
Obituary in Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), July 1993.
* * *
Yasujiro Ozu's method of filmmaking demanded a style of acting and a kind of actor at the opposite extremes from the Method school so familiar in the West. Every sequence, every shot within it, and every detail (whether of decor or gesture) within every shot, was planned by the director, his screenwriter (most often Kogo Noda), and his cinematographer (usually Yuharu Atsuya) during the evolution of the film. The actors were never asked to improvise or psychologize; instead they were expected to subordinate themselves to the overall compositional design of the film and be able to communicate the most meticulous and subtle inflections of expression and gesture under Ozu's direction. According to Chishu Ryu, Ozu "fixed each actor into each shot," and so one imagines that the ascetic discipline required of Ryu's early (and abandoned) training to follow his father as a Buddhist priest had some lasting value for his acting career.
Chishu Ryu was Ozu's lifelong friend and the most regular member of the stock company of actors he drew together. He is in Ozu's earliest surviving film (his eighth) Wakaki hi (1929), played his first major role in Daigaku yoitoko (1936), and is in all the last 17 (and the star of many) of the director's films. Just how consistent his contributions were in between is somewhat difficult to determine, as many of the films are lost or inaccessible. In the later works, Ryu's appearances take on the character of a directorial trademark: if there is no star role for him, he turns up in a brief cameo, perhaps with no more than a line or two of dialogue. (Ryu's consistent dependability was perhaps his defining quality as a professional: he was reportedly also on hand for all 45 of director Yoji Yamada's inexplicably popular Tora-san films.)
In many of the later films the director/actor relationship becomes clearly symbiotic, in an extremely complex and fruitful way. There is no question of Ryu "playing" Ozu or being a mouthpiece for the director's statements, yet one repeatedly senses a special sympathy between the director and the Ryu character, a sympathy which never precludes the possibility of critical distance. In Banshun and Tokyo monogatari, for example, we are made firmly aware of the character's limitations: the film's vision is far wider than his vision, which it contains and transcends. The limitations (and this is consistent with other late Ozu works, not necessarily starring Ryu, for example Equinox Flower) are defined in relation to the female characters (especially those played by Setsuko Hara): Ozu's subtle feminism has never been as acknowledged as Mizoguchi's or Naruse's, and Ryu's most frequent role in Ozu's universe as a gentle yet somewhat obtuse patriarch deserves reviewing in this light.
In his final film appearances, Ryu is an explicitly revered icon, for both his aging contemporaries (such as Kurosawa) and younger acolytes, such as Wim Wenders, whose pilgrimage to meet Ryu in Tokyo-Ga is a moving tribute to both Ozu and his favorite actor.
—Robin Wood, updated by Corey K. Creekmur