Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu (The Only Son / There Was a Father) (The Criterion Collection)
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In 1942's semi-autobiographical There Was a Father, Ryû returns as a widower with a 12-year-old son. (While the father in The Only Son barely rates a mention, Shuhei speaks about his late wife as if she were still alive.) After a class trip goes awry, he trades teaching for factory work and sends Ryohei off to boarding school. Thirteen years later, the father has advanced to an office job and the son has become a teacher, but Ryohei (Shûji Sano) regrets the time they lost even as he respects Shuhei's choices. While this World War II-era film works best on a personal level, the father's sacrifice also reflects a citizen's duty to his country.
If the quality of these prints isn't ideal, the imperfections fail to detract from the timelessness of the stories. The set comes complete with notes from Tony Rayns and Donald Richie, and interviews with Kristin Thompson, who looks at the films as precursors for Ozu's postwar classics, and Tadao Sato, who puts The Only Son into a historical context, concluding that this deceptively simple work "never fails to move me." --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Top Customer Reviews
The Only Son is a quintessential Ozu home drama on the relationship between a widowed mother (Choko Iida) and her son, Ryosuke. Encouraged by her son's ambitious elementary school teacher (Chishu Ryu), the mother slaves at a silk manufacturing factory, sacrificing personal and financial comfort and security, in order to support Ryosuke's education so that he may grow up to be a "great man". Thirteen years later, she travels to Tokyo to visit Ryosuke and finds that that his once seemingly bright future has become quashed by limited opportunity and personal obligations. Alternately poignant, comical, and bittersweet, the film is a thoughtful exposition of Ozu's familiar themes of familiar estrangement and acceptance of life's inevitable disappointments.
They are both masterworks. Highly recommended.
Film = 1.5 stars; restoration = 0.5 star. With films from Japan's "classical" era (roughly the first 65 years or so of the 20th Century) released by restoration labels, viewers often gets a red flag within the first few minutes. Sometimes even before the opening credits have ended. If little or no restoration has occurred, the restoration releasing label has obviously made the financial decision that the film is not worth spending much/any restoration resources on it. For this movie, the restoration warning banner can be seen flashing when the opening credits begin! The photoplay is the director's first sound film and was released in 1936 (seems like switching to sound was avoided until the studio finally put its proverbial foot down). The story is a typical tragedy from the midst of Japan's Great Depression: very sad with an even sadder ending. Two somber scenes especially seem to stand out. One is the first serious family discussion held right next to Tokyo's huge garbage incineration facilities. Another shows an uber sacrificing grandmother weeping while watching her first sound film--an untitled romantic fantasy in German. The grandmother character could also be weeping for the film she has been cast in (and the actress would certainly have sufficient reason to do so!) Acting is undistinguished and fairly mediocre (about a third of it is "back acting"), direction is exceedingly slow paced and often boring, sound and cinematography are hard to judge given the lack of restoration, music is note-by-note ripped off from Stephen Foster, and clotheslines with underwear (a director's fetish) are in full bloom (clothes never seem to dry, since they remain on the same lines and in the same positions for the duration of the film!).Read more ›