Sunday, December 01, 2013
Based on the short novel Father and Daughter by Kazuo Hirotsu, Late Spring is the story about a widowed father and his relationship with his daughter whom he tries to find a good man to be her husband. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and screenplay by Ozu and Kogo Noda, the film is an exploration into a man trying to give his daughter away to someone else in the hopes that she can start of a life of her own. Starring Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, and Haruko Sugimura. Late Spring is an extraordinary yet evocative film from Yasujiro Ozu.
The film is a simple story about the life of a widowed professor and his adult daughter as the latter cares for him as she is content with her role. Yet, there’s people in her family who asks into why she isn’t married as he has fallen for another woman while hoping for his daughter to find someone for herself so she can have her own life. It’s a film that explores the complex relationship between Shukichi Somiya (Chishu Ryu) and his daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara) where the former is a widow who works as a professor while Noriko is his caretaker and enjoys it as she’s even friends with her father’s assistant Hattori (Jun Umasi). When Noriko’s Aunt Masa (Haruko Sugimura) keeps asking about why Noriko at the age of 27 doesn’t want to get married, she tries to set Noriko up with a man she knows. At first she refuses until she finds out about her father’s new relationship with a widow prompting her to think that maybe her father isn’t going to need her.
The film’s screenplay by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda takes it time to explore this unique relationship as it’s set in postwar Japan where there’s certain traditions that had to be uphold. For a woman like Noriko, she isn’t keen on the idea of marriage as one of her friends in Aya (Yumeji Tsukioka) is a divorcee who is also very cynical towards marriage. Noriko’s Aunt Masa is a traditionalist who believes that Noriko should be married as one of the film’s themes is tradition vs. modernism yet it all plays to Noriko trying to deal with the changes in her family life as well as her relationship with her father whom she constantly worries about. Yet, Shukichi is a man that has been through a lot as he knows how helpful Noriko is but he is also a traditionalist as he is also eager to start his own life without his daughter and with a new woman in his life.
Ozu’s direction is truly ravishing in his simple approach to compositions and framing where there’s an intimacy to these images but also a beauty that is just intoxicating to look at. While there’s a few scenes as a point-of-view shot of a moving train and the scene where Noriko and Hattori are riding bicycles towards the beach. Much of Ozu’s direction remains in this very direct, simple static shot where there’s very little movement in the cameras as he’s more concerned with what is going on in the frame whether it’s a wide shot or a medium shot. Especially as Ozu makes the home where Shukichi and Noriko live in as a major character in the film where it’s a place where they can have their dinners while Shukichi can do his work. It’s a place that Noriko can call home but the events in her life has her feeling less comfortable as she seeks to find something else.
There’s some very key scenes in the film where Ozu’s direction is very succinct in the way he shoots his characters into a frame with some low angles where the camera is positioned. Notably a key scene where Shukichi and Noriko are watching a Noh play where there’s a woman (Kuniko Miyake) that Shukichi is nodding to as Noriko realizes who it is as the play that is happening make some very frank suggestions into what Noriko doesn’t want to believe that plays into her views on marriage. The drama does intensify but the way Ozu presents it is very low-key as he continues to maintain that sense of intimacy such as a sequence where Shukichi and Noriko go on a trip to Kyoto with another professor friend of Shukichi that showcases what good might come in. Even as someone as modern and independent like Noriko cannot sway into the ideas of tradition. Overall, Ozu crafts a very delicate yet powerful film about a woman’s relationship with her father.
Cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the look of some of its daytime interior and exteriors to the use of lights, with help by Haruo Isono, for some of the scenes at night including a key scene at a hotel in Kyoto. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does fantastic work with the editing to create some rhythmic cuts to play into some of the livelier moments as well as the dramatic reactions without making it too fast in cutting from one person to another. Art director Tatsuo Hamada and set decorator Mototsugu Komaki do amazing work with the home that Shukichi and Noriko live in as well as some of the place they go to like the restaurants and bars.
Costume designer Bunjiro Suzuki does wonderful work with the costumes where most of it is casual with the exception of the robes the characters wear including the lavish wedding clothes. The sound work of Hidetaka Sasaki is terrific for the intimacy it creates in some of the more low-key scenes as well as in some of the locations and such that includes the Noh play scene. The film’s music by Senji Ito is brilliant for its orchestral-based score that can playful at times while low and heavy in the more somber, dramatic moments of the film.
The film’s superb cast includes some notable small performances from Kuniko Miyake as Shukichi’s new lover Mrs. Miwa, Masao Mishima as Shukichi’s friend Professor Onodera that Noriko respects though questions about his fondness for marriage, and Jun Umasi as Shukichi’s assistant Hattori who is another friend of Noriko who seems to find that balance between modernism and traditionalism. Yumeji Tsukioka is excellent as Noriko’s friend Aya who had been through a divorce as she dwells on her cynical ideas of marriage. Haruko Sugimura is amazing as Aunt Masa as a traditionalist who is concerned for Noriko’s future as well as hoping she can find happiness in marriage. Chishu Ryu is great as Shukichi Somiya as a man who is concerned for his daughter’s future as an adult as he tries to find someone good for her. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a radiant performance as Noriko as she has this air of grace as a modern woman trying to find herself yet deals with the ideas of tradition as she longs to remain her father’s caretaker while being unsure in the idea of marriage.
Late Spring is a remarkable film from Yasujiro Ozu that features exquisite performances from Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu. The film is truly a unique look into the world of postwar Japan where things are changing as well as a struggle to maintain the traditions of the country. Notably as it is largely based on the perspective of a woman who finds herself in the middle of this conflict. In the end, Late Spring is a tremendous 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) - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) - Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight - (Equinox Flower) - Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) - (An Autumn Afternoon)
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