Friday, May 24, 2019

The End of Summer

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Kohayagawa-ke no aki (The End of Summer) is the story of a sake brewery family whose lives are shattered by discoveries relating to their patriarch and his secret life with a mistress. The film is a comedy-drama that relates to a family where a group of women deal with the news about their father while they try to adjust to the changes relating to their sake brewery. Starring Ganjiro Nakamura, Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa, Michiyo Aratama, Keiju Kobayashi, Masahiko Shimazu, Daisuke Kato, Haruko Sugimura, Hisaya Morishige, Chieko Naniwa, Reiko Dan, and Chishu Ryu. Kohayagawa-ke no aki is an evocative and somber film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film follows a family who run a small sake brewery that is dealing with bigger companies as two women both deal with potential suitors recommended by their family patriarch who has just renewed his relationship with his old mistress. It’s a film that play into a family dealing with changes during a summer as a family patriarch is trying to ensure that his two daughters be wed to men while his widowed daughter-in-law Akiko (Setsuko Hara) is raising her child alone as she has little interest in getting remarried. With his son-in-law Hisao (Keiju Kobayashi) trying to run the brewery that is competing with a bigger sake competitor, the patriarch Kohayagawa Manbei (Ganjiro Nakamura) spends much of his time at home and would sneak out to visit his old mistress Sasaki Tsune (Chieko Naniwa) whom he’s rekindled a relationship with since the passing of his wife.

The film’s script by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda play into these family relationships where Akiko is being pursued as is the youngest daughter Noriko (Yoko Tsukasa) as the latter is concerned about her own suitor just as she is interested in a lecturer. It play into the different directions of the family as Noriko’s older sister Fumiko (Michiyo Aratama) learns about her father renewing his relationship with Sasaki as it is believed that he also fathered Sasaki’s daughter Yuriko (Reiko Dan) whom his family hadn’t met. The script also play into this idea of death as it relates to Manbei as he is aware that his brewery might go out of his business as he also thinks about what will happen to his daughters and daughter-in-law.

Ozu’s direction is understated in terms of the simplicity that he maintains throughout the course of the film. Shot largely in Kyoto, the film does play into this world that shows Japan becoming modernized and more vibrant but also retaining elements of the past including some of its traditions. While there aren’t many close-ups in the film, Ozu’s direction is ravishing in his approach to simple compositions whether it’s in a wide or in a medium shot as he captures so much attention to detail on a location, a room, an office, or at a bar. The fact that he doesn’t move the camera at all as well as positioning it one or two feet off the ground which is a visual style that Ozu is known for adds to the simplicity of the film. Even in a wide shot where the camera would look down from a house where Noriko and Akiko are having a conversation at the beachside area of a river as it would then cut to a medium shot of the two on the beachside with Noriko watching her son play in the river.

Ozu would also play up the drama in a low-key approach where he doesn’t aim for melodrama but something that is straightforward but also filled with sadness as it relates to the news about Manbei and his ailing health. The film’s third act doesn’t just explore the idea of mortality but also the decisions a family would have to make as it relates to their business and future. Even as Noriko and Akiko have to find husbands so they won’t be alone and play up to the ideas of tradition though the suitors they’re set-up with don’t really have much to offer to them emotionally. Though the film’s ending is about the end of something, it is also the start of something new where Ozu’s precise framing and gorgeous compositions play into this idea of life and death. Overall, Ozu crafts a rapturous and heartfelt film about a family dealing with changes and their patriarch’s decision to rekindle his relationship with his mistress.

Cinematographer Asakazu Nakai does brilliant work with the film’s colorful cinematography with its gorgeous approach to natural lighting for the scenes set at the day as well as the usage of low-key lighting for some of the scenes set at night. Editor Koichi Iwashita does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play into some of the conversations between characters. Art director Tomoo Shimogawara does amazing work with the look of the home that Manbei lives in with Fumiko and Hisao as well as the home of Sasaki and the office that Hisao works at. Sound mixer Hisashi Shimonga does nice work with the sound as it is largely straightforward as it includes music that is being played from a certain location as well as sparse and natural sounds of a location. The film’s music by Toshiro Mayuzumi is fantastic for its usage of traditional woodwinds and flutes with some lush string arrangements in some parts of the film as it add to the film’s somber tone.

The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles from Chishu Ryu and Yuko Mochizuki as a farming couple appearing towards the end of the film commenting on a building, Kyu Sazanka as a clerk working with Hisao, Hisaya Morishige as Akiko’s suitor Isomura, Akira Takadara as the lecturer Teramoto Tadashi whom Noriko is interested in, Haruko Sugimura as a sister-in-law of Manbei in Kato Shige, Daisuke Kato and Haruko Togo in their respective roles as Manbei’s brother-in-law and sister in Kitagawa Yanosuke and Kitagawa Teruko who try to help Akiko find a suitor, Masahiko Shimazu as Hisao and Fumiko’s son Masao, and Reiko Dan as Sasaki’s daughter Yuriko who is more interested in Western culture while wondering if Manbei is really her father. Keiju Kobayashi is terrific as Manbei’s son-in-law Hisao as a man who is trying to keep the family sake brewery afloat knowing that it is futile where he tries to find ways to save it but also face the reality of what he must do. Michiyo Aratama is fantastic as Fumiko as Manbei’s eldest daughter and Hisao’s wife who spends time taking care of her father while being disapproving over his relationship with Sasaki.

Chieko Naniwa is excellent as Sasaki as an old flame of Manbei who is happy about spending time with him while knowing that his family doesn’t know about this new relationship as she agrees to keep it private until the rest of his family is ready to accept her. Yoko Tsukasa is brilliant as Noriko as Manbei’s youngest daughter who deals with the prospect of having to marry someone just as she is falling for a lecturer she’s known for years as she also deals with the idea of being alone. Setsuko Hara is amazing as Akiko as Manbei’s widowed daughter-in-law as a woman that is trying to raise her son but also help Noriko with dealing with the idea of marriage as well as pondering about getting married again. Finally, there’s Ganjiro Nakamura in a remarkable performance as Kohayagawa Manbei as a sake brewery owner who is trying to help figure out what to do for Noriko and Akiko while trying to renew a relationship with a former flame in the hope he can bring the people he love together.

Kohayagawa-ke no aki is a phenomenal film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, an understated approach to narrative, and themes on life and death. It’s a film that explores a family dealing with secrets but also uncertainty as it relates to the future and their family business as well as themselves. In the end, Kohayagawa-ke no aki 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 - Late Autumn - An Autumn Afternoon

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1 comment:

Jay said...

Wow, I've loved reading about this one!