Thursday, December 19, 2013

Good Morning (1959 film)




Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, Good Morning is a loose remake of Ozu’s 1932 silent film I Was Born, But… where two boys deal with their father’s role while waiting for him to get a new TV so they can be part of modern Japanese society. Written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, the film is an exploration into the world of Japanese society and the pressure to be part of a newer, Westernized society. Starring Keiji Sada, Yoshiko Kuga, Kuniko Miyake, and Chishu Ryu. Good Morning is a delightful and witty film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film is about two boys who are eager to have a TV set in their home as they ask for their father if they can get one so they wouldn’t have to go the neighbors to watch TV. Unfortunately, their father isn’t interested in buying a TV set where the boys make a vow of silence as a way to get the TV. It would play to some tension between neighbors as there’s a subplot in which the dues from the boys’ mother to a chairwoman were mishandled as the women are convinced she used their dues to buy a washing machine. It’s a film that explores the emergence of the Westernization in Japan where TV sets and new electric appliances are emerging.

The film’s screenplay has this narrative where it is about the pressures to conform to this new modern society where not everyone wants to be part of. Yet, the kids wants to be part of that where they want to watch sumo wrestling and baseball while the young neighbors in their neighborhood have these things which creates problems as there’s also tension among these neighbors. Even where it involves these monthly dues for a local club among the housewives that would cause tension and some misunderstanding. Though its theme on modernism and conformity is prevalent throughout the film, Yasujiro Ozu and co-writer Kogo Noda does add humor to the story in order to make it accessible which includes a lot of fart jokes.

Ozu’s direction is very engaging for the way he presents a typical life in a neighborhood at the Tokyo suburbs where it’s this mixture of old-school architecture and the emergence of modern Japan. Yet, Ozu maintains his very simple presentation that is truly ravishing to look at in the way he shows a world that is changing rapidly. Much of it in his trademark, low-angle static shot where he doesn’t move the camera yet uses a lot of wide and medium shots to capture the action. There’s so much that Ozu showcases in the way he frames his actors and to find ways to infuse lowbrow humor and melodrama into something that feels like another ordinary day in the neighborhood.

Even in scenes at the homes of the characters to play into a lot of the drama as the boys take a vow of silence for much of the film’s third act while there’s moments where the club chairman also has to deal with her mother as that moment represents the idea of old vs. new. The sense of modernism definitely looms throughout the film as the TV set is a centerpiece to the story as it represents the arrival of the new world where the boys’ parents and their neighbors have to deal with a salesman selling modern things. It would lead to this climax on whether to keep up with changing times or to stick to what they already have and not worry about being out of touch. Overall, Ozu creates a very compelling yet charming film about the pressures of suburban neighbors in a changing world.

Cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography to play into this sense of a modern Japan emerging with its vibrant colors as well as the look of its interiors and exteriors in the daytime scenes. Editor Toshiro Mayuzumi does nice work with the editing where it is very straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play into some of the film‘s conversation and humorous moments. Production designer Tatsuo Hamada does wonderful work with the look of the homes the characters live in as well as the apartment of the boys‘ tutor. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo is terrific for the intimacy that is created as it plays to the emergence of a modern Japan. The film’s music by Yoshiyasu Hamamura is amazing for its playful and comical score that is based on orchestral string arrangements and woodwinds while it also has some serene yet somber moments for its drama.

The film’s brilliant cast includes some notable small roles from Taiji Tonoyama as a door-to-door salesman who annoys the housewives and Teruko Nagaoka as the neighbor Mrs. Tomizawa who tries to calm things down with the feuding housewives. Haruko Sugimara is terrific as Mrs. Haraguchi as the neighborhood club head who tries to figure out where the monthly dues went as she’s been suspected of mishandling things. Keiji Sada is excellent as the boys’ English tutor Heiichiro Fukui who tries to figure out what the boys is doing while finding work. Yoshiko Kuga is wonderful as the boys’ aunt Setsuko who always help out with the family as she is an object of affection for Fukui.

Kuniko Miyake and Chishu Ryu are superb as the parents of the boys with Miyake as the more stern yet loving mother and Ryu as the father who struggles with the changing times. Finally, there’s the performances of Shitara Koji and Masahiko Shimazu in their respective roles as the boys Minoru and his younger brother Isamu as two boys who just want a TV set as they take a vow of silence to get what they want with Koji as the more determined and Shimazu as the more energetic.

Good Morning is an extraordinarily rich film from Yasujiro Ozu. Thanks to its lighthearted approach towards modernism and its emphasis on family and community. The film is definitely one of Ozu’s finest films as well as one of his most accessible. In the end, Good Morning is a fantastic film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) - (Days of Youth) - Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) - (Passing Fancy) - (A Mother Should Be Loved) - A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) - (The Only Son) - (What Did the Lady Forget?) - (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) - (There Was a Father) - Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) - Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) - Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight - (Equinox Flower) - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) - (An Autumn Afternoon)

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