Pillow shot from Tokyo Story (Ozu-San.com)
The phrase 'pillow shot' has come to be used to describe the short transitional images of landscapes, interiors and objects that are such a distinctive feature of Yasujiro Ozu's cinema. There are many examples on the excellent Ozu-San website and a montage on Youtube (embedded below). The first scene of my favourite Ozu film, Tokyo Story (1953), shows an old couple, the Hirayamas, packing for their trip to Tokyo. The second takes place in the house belonging to their son, a doctor in the capital. We do not see the journey itself - instead the scenes are intercut with three pillow shots showing smokestacks (see above), a railway crossing and the sign outside their son's office. These are more than just establishing shots - as David Desser writes in his handbook to the film, 'careful examination of the exterior shots in the rest of the film reveals that the smokestacks and train station are, in fact spaces "connected" to Dr. Hirayama's, but nothing so indicates that at the start.' This connection resembles the way that particular words in early Japanese poetry were given associative pillow-words.
The ear/OAR label specialise in avant garde sounds and environmental recordings; landscape-related examples include Kiyoshi Mizutani's Scenery Of The Border, Francisco López's Trilogy of the Americas and the Phonography series. In 2007 they released a compilation of music inspired by Ozu's pillow-shots. A review in The Wire concluded that 'despite the range of idioms on display, from delicate electroacoustic tapestries (Bernhard Gunter) and meditative drones (Keith Berry) to bucolic field recordings (Kiyoshi Mizutani) and frequent uses of silence (almost all), each perfectly serves their respective image. Highlights include Steve Roden's beautiful pairing of chiming guitar and hushed percussive patterns; label owner Dale Lloyd's gently shifting gamelan shapes; and Taku Sugimoto's 'Tengu In Linguistics', where he drops six strident piano notes into a reductive vacuum, reflecting another of Ozu's themes, the eschewal of action in favour of the contemplation of the surrounding space.' Yasujiro Ozu - Hitokomakura followed an earlier compilation dedicated to Andrey Tarkovsky. The sequence was completed last year with a tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni.