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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