Saturday, 8 July 2017

Late Spring

Year of Release:  1949
Director:  Yasujiro Ozu
Screenplay:  Kogo Noda and Yasujiro Ozu, based on the novel Father and Daughter by Kazuo Hirotsu 
Starring:  Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura
Running Time:  108 minutes
Genre:  Drama

Twenty seven year old Noriko (Hara) lives happily with her widowed father, Professor Shukichi Somaya (Ryu).  Until, that is, a meddling aunt (Sugimura) convinces the Professor that it is high time that Noriko got married.  However, Noriko does not want to get married, particularly as it would mean leaving her father alone.

This is one of the great works of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, and, like many of his films, it deals with themes of tradition versus modernity, family life and conflict between the generations, as well as the philosophy of mono no aware (the pathos of things), an awareness of the impermanence of all things.  Nowhere is it better exemplified than in the film's powerful closing scene.  The film also comments on occupied Japan (the film was made at a time when Japan was occupied by the Americans following World War II), contrasting images of Coca-Cola advertising with traditional Japanese pursuits such as a noh play and a rock garden.  It's not a plot driven film, and it moves at a slow, meditative pace.  There is also the theme of duty to others versus the individual needs, Noriko wants to stay and look after her father, her father, while he values Noriko's kindness and companionship, knows that she must set out and lead an independent life, even though it means him being alone.  It demands a lot of patience from the viewer, being largely filmed, like many Ozu films, by static cameras, with beautifully composed shots and characters often seen at a remove from the audience, framed in corridors and doorways.  If you have the patience to go along with the film's gentle rhythms than you will be richly rewarded.

Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu in Late Spring

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