Saturday, December 21, 2013
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda from a novel by Ton Satomi, Late Autumn is the story of three old men who helps a widow find a prospective husband for her daughter who is reluctant to leave her mother. The film is an exploration into the conflicts between tradition and modernism as well as devotion to a parent which recalls Ozu’s 1949 film Late Spring. Starring Setsuko Hara, Shin Saburi, Nobuo Nakamura, Ryuji Kita, Yoko Tsukasa, Keiji Sada, and Chishu Ryu. Late Autumn is an elegant yet touching drama from Yasujiro Ozu.
The film is essentially a simple story about three men who decides to play matchmaker for the daughter of their late colleague who is reluctant to leave her mother. When one of the men decides to pursue the mother since she is a widow and he’s been a widower for years, it causes some tension between mother and daughter as the latter has been reluctant to the idea of marriage despite the prospects she has. It’s a film that just doesn’t explore the ideas of traditional customs but also the sense of reluctance from young people to leave their parents and go into the world of marriage as there’s also some cynicism towards the subject.
The film’s screenplay by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda does take its time to explore some of its fallacies while showing some concern from these three men who want to ensure the happiness of Ayako (Yoko Tsukasa) as a favor for their late friend. Though their well-meaning approach to ensure Ayako’s happiness would have some repercussions, they would get the help from Ayako’s friend Yoriko (Mariko Okada) who would be the one to learn about their plans upon seeing the tension between Ayako and her mother Akiko (Setsuko Hara). While Ayako does eventually meet someone in Goto (Keiji Sada) whom she likes, she isn’t sure about getting married as she notices that friends who get married become disconnected with one another while one of the daughters of the matchmakers is having her own marital troubles in a minor subplot that does relate to the theme of marriage.
Ozu’s direction has this air of elegance that is shown throughout the film though its presentation is very simple in his trademark, single static-camera shot where the camera never moves. In that presentation, Ozu shows so much by doing so little from the way he presents modern Tokyo with its sushi bars and restaurants to the homes the characters live in. Ozu’s usage of wide and medium shots in a full-frame presentation does convey this sense of a new world emerging in Japan where it is very modern but there are still customs and traditions that are still being held. Notably as Ayako wears modern clothes throughout the film while Akiko still wears traditional Japanese robes though neither women really say anything about their clothes where they both wear traditional robes in the film’s opening scene at the funeral of Akiko’s husband.
The intimacy in some of those medium shots allow Ozu to play into the growing tension between mother and daughter where Ayako is upset over the idea of her mother marrying another man as Akiko has no idea what Ayako is talking about. The use of framing in some group shots are very potent to display not just that tension but also the sense of confusion and misunderstanding that these two women go through as well as some gorgeous shots at Ayako’s work place where she and Yoriko stare into the city. The film would eventually lead to some conclusion about the decision the two women make where it has this very touching moment about not just what Ayako is about to step into but also the journey that Akiko must face. Overall, Ozu crafts a very mesmerizing and captivating film about a young woman going into the world of marriage while dealing with her devotion to her mother.
Cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta does fantastic work with the film‘s gorgeous cinematography with its rich colors for many of the film‘s exterior settings as well as some of its interiors with its lighting as well as to display the colors in some of those interior settings. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does excellent work with the editing with its use of rhythmic cuts to play into some of the intensity of the conversations while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Tomiji Shimizu and art director Tatsuo Hamada do amazing work with the look of the apartment Ayako and Akiko live in as well as the sushi bar that Yoriko lives in.
Costume designer Toshikazu Sugiyama does wonderful work with the costumes from the modern dresses that Ayako and Yoriko wear to the traditional robes that Akiko wears. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo is terrific for the intimacy that is captured in many of the film‘s interior scenes that includes one of the film‘s final sequences where Ayako and Akiko spend one last trip where they hear the voices of students. The film’s music by Kojun Saito is exquisite for its whimsical yet intoxicating score filled with some quirky string arrangements and traditional Japanese string instruments to play into some of the film’s humor while using some serene pieces for its drama.
The film’s superb cast includes some notable small performances from Fumio Watanabe as a friend of Ayako and Yoriko in Sugiyama, Kuniko Miyake as Mamiya’s wife, Yuriko Tashiro as Taguchi’s daughter who comes home following a quarrel with her husband early in the film, and Chishu Ryu in a terrific small performance as Akiko’s brother-in-law Shukichi who would later invite Akiko and Ayako to his inn late in the film to talk about all they had been through. Keiji Sada is terrific in a small yet memorable performance as Ayako’s suitor Goto whom she befriends despite her misgivings from one of her dad’s old friends in Mamiya. Shin Saburi is excellent as Mamiya as the man who leads the charge to find a suitor for Ayako where his planning later causes confusion and trouble while Nobuo Nakamura is fantastic as Taguchi who is kind of the conscious of the film as he becomes aware of the trouble they’re creating. Ryuji Kita is great as Hirayama as the third man who does Mamiya’s work while he seeks to pursue Akiko whom he’s had feelings for as he wonders if he should marry her.
Mariko Okada is wonderful as Ayako’s friend Yoriko who is a modern woman with some traditional values as she tries to figure out the tension between Ayako and Akiko while confronting the men over their actions. Yoko Tsukasa is amazing as Ayako as this young woman unsure about getting married while being upset over the idea of her mother remarrying just months after the death of her father as she displays this sense of anguish and confusion into a woman who holds some traditional values as well as modern views. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a radiant performance as Ayako’s mother Akiko as this woman who is the representation of tradition as she’s also one who is very graceful towards her father’s old friends while being caught off guard by Ayako’s accusation that she is to remarry as she wonders what to do for her daughter as well as for herself in a truly exquisite performance.
Late Autumn is a remarkably rich and touching film from Yasujiro Ozu. Armed with a great led by Setsuko Hara and Yoko Tsukasa. It’s a film that explores the dynamics between mothers and daughters as well as the conflict between tradition and modernism that is told with such care by Ozu. In the end, Late Autumn is a sensational 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) - Good Morning - Floating Weeds - (The End of Summer) - (An Autumn Afternoon)
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