on July 16, 2006
I discovered this film after reading Paul Schrader's book, Transcendental Style in Film. I located an old VHS copy and got totally sucked in by it. I found I loved the father and daughter by the end in a way that was more real than in nearly any other film I'd ever seen. I felt as though I'd been invited into their home and then been treated like an honored guest as a subtle and profound crisis in this family was dealt with.
I bought a Code 3 DVD version from Shochiku Home Video and continued watching it while reading Donald Richie's book on Ozu. But the subtitles seemed to be translated poorly and I could tell that a lot of the subtleties were lost. So I was very pleased when Criterion came out with this version in which much greater care was given to the translations.
In the Shochiku version there are no subtitles at all in the famous scene at the Noh play. But Criterion provides a marvelous translation that adds another layer of depth to the experience. As Noriko looks at her father beside her and then at Mrs. Miwa, whom she thinks is going to marry him, her jealousy and hurt are underscored by the performance of the play. In it a chorus of monks recites in verse a woman's feelings for her lost love. The emotions of the woman in the play, hidden behind the monk's ritualistic performance, parallel the storm of feeling raging just beneath Noriko's subdued expressions.
This is a masterful work and Criterion's translators should be applauded. Also, Richard Peña's commentary points out even more subtleties than I'd read in Richie's book. This DVD is a treasure.
on October 2, 2006
The extras on this disc are fabulous. TOKYO-GA, in particular, is fantastic. It's fascinating to see what Chishu Ryu looked like in his old age, and a real eye-opener to learn that he was almost the same age as Setsuko Hara when they were making pictures together, considering he was most often playing her father. Criterion has done a wonderful job with the bonus features and package design, as per usual. I would have given it a 5 star rating, but for one issue. My biggest complaint (and unfortunately, it IS a complaint), is with the print source quality. One of the reels has a white vertical emulsion scratch running through its entirety; the one with the famous shot of Setsuko Hara riding a bicycle with a male friend, passing a Coca-Cola sign at the side of the road. Only four years after the end of WWII, the Coke sign served as a reminder to the viewer that Japan was still occupied by the Americans, but was also feeling the encroaching influence from capitalistic western culture. Perhaps it was an insurmountable feat for Criterion to have digitally restored this sequence, but I must admit having to endure watching the vertical scratch throughout that entire sequence was quite disappointing and even infuriating, considering it's one of my favourite moments in all of Ozu's films. Having said that, it's an absolute essential for any serious film enthusiast to have this in his or her dvd collection, so I guess I'll just have to grin and bear it. I'm one of those dummies who buys his favourites again and again, like Star Wars fans, so if they improve upon the transfer, I'll probably buy it again. ;-)
Addendum, September 14, 2014: I was feeling passionate when I originally wrote this review. The white emulsion streak is minimal, upon second, third, and fourth viewing. It's fine. At the time, I was probably just sensing the fact that these artistic artifacts do not last forever. Kudos for Criterion for caring enough to release this film on dvd for a North American audience.
on June 19, 2006
Ozu at his best creates achingly beautiful cinematic musings on everyday life. No car chases or explosions, no murders, not a single gun is fired, not so much as a kick in the groin or even a clenched fist. His mileiu is the routine interaction among families, the ostensibly mundane issues that affect us on a daily basis, yet he presents these issues in images so meditative, so beautifully poetic, that they become timeless and profound. As I said, these qualities represent Ozu at his best. And Late Spring is one of his best films.
The story is typical Ozu, a young woman enjoys living with her father while her father very much wants her to get married and leave the house. Not that the father doesn't enjoy having her around, he simply feels that she needs to experience life away from the burden of caring for him, so he is willing to make the sacrifice. Simple enough, right? It's the way Ozu tells the story that makes it heartbreaking and meaningful. He eschews conventional approaches to filmmaking, no dissolves, he goes from scene to scene via simple cuts, he lingers on hallways and doors for seconds after characters have left the frame, or before they arrive, his establishing shots are often establishing montages, a series of shots that show streets, buildings, gardens, parkways, flowers. He retains the small details most filmmakers would leave out, the routine greetings, the "hi, how are you doing?"s, the casual preludes to pertinent conversation that might bog down a conventional film but are perfectly at home in the low key world of Ozu. In effect, his films move at a steady and brooding rhythm, they are like mood pieces, tone poems that never deviate from this quietude. Modern American purveyors of shrill and screechy cinema(P.T. Anderson, Paul Haggis) could take a lesson from Ozu. There isn't a single raised voice in Late Spring, yet the film is more deeply moving than a thousand Magnolias. In fact, the little surprise at the end of Late Spring is the closest Ozu has ever come to a conventional "twist" ending, and even that develops naturally out of the story and the characters.
There isn't much else to say about the film. The acting is superb. Special acknowledgement should go to Setsuko Hara's performance, the way her face says so much about what her character is going through, sans any dialogue. She has a sweet smile, and has always been good at playing happy-go-lucky characters, but with an anxious underside. She has never been better.
Modern audiences, especially western audiences, might have some trouble with the idea of arranged marriage as a solution to a young woman's dilemmas. Apparently, in Japan at that time, a young woman's options were very limited, either stay at home or get married(getting an apartment or having a career were not encouraged, at least that is what the film suggests). Ozu reminds me of John Ford, he looks at communal living and conservative traditions with a somewhat bittersweet eye, but ultimately respects their places in society, mourning their passing while accepting the reality of progress. Late Spring is from another place, another time, and that needs to be taken into account, because what it says about the human condition transcends any labels of old-fashionedness.
Shorter and more simple than Tokyo Story, but no less engaging. A masterpiece.
on November 5, 2006
Late Spring was made in 1949, shortly after the change in the Japanese Constitution allowed women the right to have a divorce, could have only been made in this small period of time. The film is about family, marriage and happiness. A father, played by Chishu Ryu, wants his daughter, played by Setsuko Hara, to marry. At first it seems she refuses to marry out of fear of what might happen to him but it soon becomes clear she fears what might happen to herself. In other words she has grown attached to her father and living with him. To her marriage means being pushed out into a strange new home, a strange new way of life. She like Hamlet, fears the great unknown. The black & white movie is 108 minutes and has commentary by Richard Pena.
A second disc has Tokyo-Ga, a great 92 minutes tribute to Ozu filmed in Tokyo in 1985. It is wonderful to watch and, like the movie, gives a snapshot of Japan as it was and not how it is now. This set, in other words, holds two faces of Japan that once was. There is also a nice booklet with essays and disc information.
A must for any fans of Japanese film or if you already own Early Summer.
Yasujiro Ozu is one of the world's beloved directors. Having made many films since the 1920's up to his final film "An Autumn Afternoon" in 1962, his works have been appreciated by viewers and critics for his family comedies but also his serious family storylines such as "Early Spring", "Early Summer, "Tokyo Story", "Floating Weeds", "The End of Summer" (to name a few).
The Criterion Collection has been one of the major forces in America of bringing Ozu's films stateside and now they are giving Ozu films the high definition treatment on Blu-ray starting with his 1949 drama film "Late Spring" (known in Japan as "Banshun").
Based on the short novel "Chichi to Musume" (Father and Daughter) by Kazuo Hirotsu and featuring a collaboration with screenwriter Kogo Noda, "Late Spring" was written and shot during the Allied Powers Occupation of Japan and undergone many changes to fit official censorship requirements.
The film would star Chishu Ryu (who would star in other Ozu films sucha s "Early Summer", "Tokyo Story", "An Autumn Afternoon" and the popular "Tora-san" films of the '70s and '80s) and Setsuko Hara ("Early Summer", "Tokyo Story", "Late Autumn").
Over 60-years since "Late Spring" was shown in theaters and winning the prestigious Kinema Jumpo critic's award for "Best Film", "Best Director", "Best Screenplay" and "Best Actress", the film has resonated strongly with Ozu fans all over the world. Many have regarded "Late Spring" as one of Ozu's masterpiece and the film has been listed in many "Greatest Films of All Time" polls.
"Late Spring" is also a film that showcases Japanese family tradition and the importance of marriage, but also how Japan would face the issue of tradition and modern views towards marriage and also divorce. But for Ozu fans, who have watched his silent films and have seen the development of the Japanese family and most importantly Ozu's honest portrayal of the Japanese family and the sacrifice of the parents for their children (and vice versa).
"Late Spring" is one of those honest films featuring wonderful performances by both Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara, as the father and daughter.
"Late Spring - The Criterion Collection #331" is presented in Black and White (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Having owned the 2006 Criterion Collection DVD release, first it is important for me to say that the film does have its share of scratches and film damage (nothing that prevents a viewer from enjoying the film). While the film does have scenes with missing frames and also occasional flickering, the film does look improved over the 2006 DVD release with much better contrast with the white and grays, but also the black levels are nice and deep.
According to the Criterion Collection, this high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain master positive and a 35mm theatrical print. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS while Image System's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, jitter, and flicker.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Late Spring" is presented in Japanese monaural (LPCM 1.0). Compared to the 2006 DVD release, there appears to be much more clarity when it comes to dialogue. While there are some moments of audio distortion on certain scenes, nothing detrimental and noticeable unless you are really looking for it.
According to the Criterion Collection, the original soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the film's optical track. Viewers may notice significant distortion inherent in the original surviving soundtrack materials. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.
"Late Spring - The Criterion Collection #331' on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:
Audio Commentary - Featuring audio commentary by Richard Pena, program director of New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center. This was the original audio commentary from the 2006 DVD release and quite informative as Pena is very familiar with Ozu's work.
TOKYO-GA - (92 minutes) Wim Wenders 1985 documentary and tribute to Yasujiro Ozu, the documentary features interviews with Chishu Ryu and cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta.
"Late Spring - The Criterion Collection #331' comes with a 22-page booklet with the following essays: "Home with Ozu" by Michael Atkinson (Village Voice writer), Ozu and Setsuko Hara by Donald Richie (author of many books on Japanese cinema) and Ozu and Kogo Noda, an excerpt from Yasujiro Ozu: The Person and His Art (1964) from Ozu, translated for the original 2006 DVD release of "Late Spring".
As a person who loves and enjoys Yasujiro Ozu films, "Late Spring" has always been a favorite because of how it confronts Japanese perspective on the traditional marriage but now with a modern perspective, different from Ozu films which relied heavily on themes of the traditional Japanese family.
From the beginning of the film, we realize that the Somiya family are different compared to other families shown in previous Ozu films. For one, Professor Somiya had not shown great pressure towards his daughter Noriko, possibly because she does so much in taking care of him and the house but yet remains very happy. The other reason is because Noriko had health problems during World War II and as a father, having lost a wife, the last thing he wanted was to lose his only child and I believe that was his drive for not putting too much pressure on her. She's happy and that's all that mattered.
But of course, what seemed natural to Professor Somiya, the more he started to see how others viewed Noriko being single at home. This is where the traditional Japanese culture clashes with modernism. In "Late Spring", we see Aunt Masa giving her brother and also Noriko the third degree about being married. It's her duty to be married and be a happy wife. But for Noriko, she's happy the ways she is.
And this is where Noriko is unlike previous Japanese wives featured in Ozu's films. She is absolutely beautiful, stylish (in Western wear) and is not wearing a kimono. She has her set way of thinking, the freedom to think that way as it has gone unchallenged until now...when it comes to marriage. And with someone who is set in her ways...what can her father do?
And thus, the storyline becomes quite intriguing when we are told that Noriko's father may be getting remarried to another woman. And this is enough to set the happy Noriko off. Remarriage has always been seen indecent to her but from this point on, we see the change that takes place between both characters. The father submitting to the classic Japanese tradition, even though he was brought up in that tradition of arranged marriage, he himself had seen how his wife reacted to it earlier on. So, as much as he wants Noriko to find the right man that she wants to marry, the pressure from his sister and others have led him to lead Noriko in the path to marriage.
And for Noriko, we eventually see the change in her, as her father getting married leads her to realize that she may need to get married now, because with her father having a new wife, perhaps she will no longer be needed.
If anything, it's an intriguing juxtaposition of the Japanese family in 1949. From traditional to modern, and with the modern, we see Professor Onodera having remarried, while Noriko's good friend Aya has gotten a divorce (which was made legal in Japan a year prior). And most intriguing is how Ozu manages to confront these changes in Japanese culture when it comes to marriage.
Bare in mind, postwar changes were in store for Japan after World War II and the most affected were women. The social status of women was them being subservient towards their husband and after World War II, women not only were granted the right to a divorce, they were also allowed to join the workforce. So, we started to see more freedom for women after World War II and the importance of family started to decline. In fact, what I enjoy about "Last Spring" is how it is a time stamp of Japanese culture and the changing of family life which Ozu would feature throughout his career through his films. And for those familiar with Japanese culture today, from the shrinking of the Japanese population to a country with the lowest birth rate in the world, the Japanese family has changed tremendously and we witness those changes through Ozu's films.
As "Late Spring" will be an introduction to Ozu's work for those viewing Criterion Collection films primarily on Blu-ray, another fascination that I have towards Ozu films is his camera technique, using low angle shots and also using non-traditional cinematic methods by avoiding panning, tracking and crane shots. It's what separates Ozu from Kurosawa and that the reliance of Ozu to use static compositions and also his use of pillow shots used in "Late Spring" and various shots of symbolism which intrigues me each time I read various historians and critics share their own perspective of what they think those shots are all about.
And as mentioned, the efficacy of this film relies on its characters. It's one thing to have a talented Chishu Ryu to play the father, but it's Setsuko Hara, who absolutely shines in this film with her energy followed by her change of emotion. For those who watch a lot of early Japanese cinema, you don't see actresses such as Setsuko Hara play a character and is able to captivate the audience.
Overall, "Late Spring" is a fantastic film that captures the changing of Japanese family life and the clash between traditional and modern perspectives. But it's also a film, among many other Ozu films that shows us why Yasujiro Ozu is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Captivating and powerful, "Late Spring" is a magnificent portrayal of the changing Japanese family and a film that I highly recommend!
on July 3, 2014
This on one of Yasujiro Ozu's later films, when his style was fully developed. As in most Ozu films, the theme is the Japanese family, or to be more accurate, the dissolution of the Japanese family. Chishu Ryu plays the father who finally succeeds in marrying off his daughter, who is at an age when she must marry or reconcile herself to spinsterhood. The daughter, played by Setsuko Hara, is very happy with her life and doesn't want to leave her father. Eventually she breaks down and agrees to marry one of men her father finds for her. We feel a mixture of emotions as we watch the daughter take her marriage vows knowing she really would have preferred to stay single.
on May 30, 2006
This sublime film juxtoposes ancient Japan (the tranquility of temples in Kamakura and Kyoto, the shadows of branches shimering in a sparce alcove, the pagentry of a Noh play) with a contemporary focus on the problems surrounding marriage and divorce in modern life.
A father (Chishu Ryu) and virginal 27-year-old daughter(Setsuko Hara) live alone together and are clearly and hopelessly dependent upon each other. The film obliquely ponders what would happen if the daughter were to marry and leave the father. The daughter resists the idea, wanting to remain with her dad. But the world around her conspires to force her to change. With pressure from her aunt, her independent and divorced friend Aya, and foremost from her father, the daughter finally makes up her mind. The movie then concludes with just a brushlike hint at what the actual consequences of that decision might be, as the father nods his head in despair.
Thus Ozu sets up his prototype family drama that he'd repeat over and over again after 1949 in other films such as Early Summer and Tokyo Story. Although Tokyo Story is Ozu's most famous masterpiece, Late Spring has a more bracing quality.
I think it's because, in Late Spring, Ozu is constantly injecting powerful doses of ancient Japanese culture (the alcove, the stage play) that propel the story along. Although the daughter may want to continue rejecting comprimise, change and marriage, the constant presence of ancient ceremony reminds the characters that change is inevitable. (Setsuko Hara famously marks this when her head drops dejectedly while she and her father watch the Noh play). Thus the film itself a ceremony of life -- a ceremony Ozu would repeat.
Like many original films that spawn sequels, Late Spring may in fact be the best.
Criterion celebrates this with an excellent comentary track, two lucid essays, a decent print (I can't compare it to other versions, but it is mostly crisp with an occasional scratchy wave), and the inclusion of Wim Wender's 1985 feature documentary on Ozu "Tokyo Ga."
Often DVDs aren't worth the money because they only bear one or two viewings before they sit on the shelf. Late Spring is worthwhile, a piece of art that hasn't weathered much despite 57 years and a fascinating introduction to one of the most intimate and culturally relevant filmakers ever.
on March 29, 2013
This is after I watched his Tokyo Story, The flavor of Green tea over rice, Early Summer..etc
With this perspective, I think this is his most stylish work, he started to frame his shots, established his camera angle, and build his beautiful props, cut to his pace all in this one film.
I enjoyed all of his films, but this one is very dear to my heart, as I watched them all and came back to this one, it almost gives me a feeling - yes, this is it. This is where Ozu found his mark, and I can see all of it coming together for his later masterpieces.
I do believe a true artist should not sell himself out to the commercial interest, but a true artist needs to survive and prosper like everyone else, the greatness of Ozu, at least from my personal perspective, was his willingness to take the post war melodramatic Japanese studio works, and he did these with his own style, he sighed and mocked sometime the unbearable loneliness of being in a fast changing, morally decadent society, but he never pointed it out flatly to you, he does not shout out the idioms, you will need to find it yourself, but it is all there, after many years passing by you, you will smile, nod your head and finally say to him: I understand it now.
on April 25, 2016
***Review Contains Spoilers***
After having seen and loving Tokyo Story, a film which is widely considered to be not only master Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu’s best film, but also one of the greatest films ever made, I was very eager to see more. Many consider Late Spring another of his absolute best works so it seemed like a logical next choice, and I can happily say that it most definitely met my very high expectations. As with Tokyo Story, this a deep, masterfully-executed and penetrating film examining family life in Japan and the societal and generational pressures which shape and mold it, for better or for worse.
As with Tokyo Story, we enter this tale of father, Shukichi Somiya, and daughter, Noriko Somiya, in the middle. 27-year-old Noriko lives together with her father and they appear to be very close. Naturally, questions begin to arise in the mind of the viewer: where is Noriko’s mother and why hasn’t she ever married? Ozu does a fantastic job of coaxing these questions out in the film’s early stages and gives us hints at what has transpired, but never spoon-feeds us by explicitly explaining the backstory. We learn that Noriko had been seriously ill at one point during a period of war and hardship, but has since recovered. Her mother is a mystery for much of the film, but it slowly becomes clear that she has died and that Shukichi is a widower. With this context, the film examines the father-daughter relationship between Noriko and Shukichi and the pressures on them both to have Noriko finally marry and “leave the nest”, so to speak.
The strength of this film (and Tokyo Story alike) is how subtly and effectively it tells this story. The screenplay and pacing of the film are phenomenal in slowly and carefully peeling back the layers of the family dynamic. Throughout the film we question the actions and underlying motivations of each of the characters. By the end, the full vision snaps into focus and we are left with a melancholy ending that really sneaks up and packs quite an emotional punch.
Let’s begin with Noriko. For the length of the movie she is adamantly against marriage, especially re-marriage. As the details of the backstory filter in, her reasoning begins to become clear. Noriko lost her mother which has obviously affected her very much. As a result, she is very close with her father and wary of leaving him behind. Her mother’s death obviously must have been very hard for her father as well, and she references the fact that he needs her to take care of him. She feels that she must be there for him because she fears he may be lonely if she leaves and won’t be able to cope as a widower. She is also understandably protective of her father – she is afraid to lose him like she did her mother. Thus, she can’t bear the thought of him ever remarrying which, in her mind, could potentially jeopardize their relationship. As the film progresses though, pressures on Noriko to get married come from all sides – her aunt, father, and best friend (and ironically, divorcée) all urging her that she must take this long overdue and necessary step. To her, the relationship she has with her father is more than enough and brings her contentment. However, she is made to feel like she is being selfish in staying home with him, especially when it is suggested that he wishes to remarry. Thus, she eventually gives into these pressures and marries at the end of the film, but is clearly devastated and unhappy with her choice.
Shukichi can be analyzed in the same way. He seems to be very happy with his daughter home and with the lives they are leading together. It isn’t until his sister, Masa, makes the observation that Noriko has gone far too long without marrying, that he begins to question things. He too begins to pressure Noriko that she must marry, and begins to insinuate that he wishes to remarry as well and that she need not worry about taking care of him. Many conversations seem to have taken place between Shukichi and Masa off-screen, as at the end of the movie it is revealed that Shukichi’s plans for remarriage were fabricated by both he and Masa in order to influence Noriko in her decision. Shukuchi feigns happiness at Noriko’s wedding (as does Noriko… quite poorly), but at the end of the film we see him return home to his empty house in a devastating scene where his true distress becomes apparent.
In this moment, the movie strikes a powerful note as we realize neither Noriko nor Shukichi wanted for this marriage to happen and neither are happy with the outcome. They were both made to feel selfish by others around them – Shukichi for keeping Noriko home so long with him and Noriko for keeping her father from remarrying. In reality, neither of these two things are true, but the characters are made to believe them through the pressures of their family and friends. Now, they find themselves in places that neither of them wanted or needed, but that society has deemed “correct” for them.
It’s a poignant and thoughtful tale which is marvelously achieved by the strength of spectacular direction and acting. Setsuko Hara is absolutely radiant and Noriko. She shines in every single scene and has such an effortless quality to her acting that makes her every move feel completely natural. There is quite a lot of subtlety to her performance as well, as Noriko constantly hides her true feelings behind a big smile and a pleasant demeanor. This subtlety and depth of performance extends to Chishû Ryû as Shukichi as well, who is equally brilliant as a caring father who is conflicted between keeping his daughter by his side and shooing her out the door to a more socially acceptable life.
And everything of course is tied together by Ozu’s absolutely masterful direction. He is able to frame his characters in such a respectful and gentle way that is never judgmental. And although this is a relatively sad story, it never feels like a condemnation of Japanese family values. Ozu’s strength is that he is able to simply present the story as it is, asserting that such is the nature of life and the pressures we all face. He doesn’t blame his characters or anyone else for the way things play out, he just ruminates on the existence of these family dynamics and their effect on the lives we lead. The end result is a powerful film that is deep, thought-provoking, and emotionally resonant.
on January 15, 2013
I admit, it's hard for me to be really objective about this film. I've owned a copy in VHS, DVD, and now this gorgeous release from Criterion and, regardless of format, it's always managed to tug at my heartstrings. You can read about the plot elsewhere and, yes, it's a pretty typical setup from Ozu - a traditional family fragmenting from pressures both internal and external. So why bother writing another review? Because, as good as the last Criterion DVD release was, this version in Blu Ray is stunningly better. Much of the distracting camera shake and blurring is gone. Interior scenes seem to have an almost three dimensional contrast compared to the DVD. Closeups and medium shots often have startling clarity. I could on but, seriously, if you love this film as I do, this is the best I've seen it.