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Late Spring (The Criterion Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A widowed professor fakes an impending marriage to spur his adult daughter to get on with her life.


A masterpiece of postwar Japanese cinema, Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring serves as an elegant primer for many of the themes that would define Ozu's later career. As with other Ozu classics, this is a calm, meditative drama about the dynamics of family, in this case the inevitable separation of 56-year-old father and widower Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) and his adult daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara), who is content to care for her father and remain unmarried, despite the urging of friends and relatives to find a suitable husband. There are some viable candidates, and several attempts at matchmaking, but the likeliest match is a man who's already engaged. Noriko simply wishes for things to remain as they are, but when she does eventually marry a handsome chemist who "looks like Gary Cooper," Ozu's drama remains intimately focused on the subtle emotions at play; there's not a scene or sequence that feels out of place, and Late Spring serves a secondary function as a light and lively portrait of post-war Japan, as hints of Western influence (like a Coca-Cola sign in one of the film's most memorable scenes) that signal Japan's transition toward a modern commercial economy. Most of all, however, Late Spring is a carefully observed and quietly heartbreaking story of a parent who yearns to set things right for his daughter who must balance her father's love with her own prospects for a fulfilling future. And while Ozu would go on to examine familial issues in later, equally noteworthy films, Late Spring represents a milestone that would ensure Ozu his rightful place among the greatest of all Japanese directors. --Jeff Shannon

On the DVDs
Criterion's release of Late Spring contains a few minor flaws in terms of image quality (such as occasional emulsion scratches), but viewers can rest assured that this DVD was mastered from the finest available materials, and the film looks very good considering the conditions of post-war Japan that were typically harsh on films of that period. The "windowbox" framing format accurately preserves the film's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. There's a new and improved English subtitle translation, and the audio commentary by Richard Peña (an Ozu expert and program director of New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center) emphasizes the literary traditions that inform Ozu's films, in addition to the director's signature fixed-camera, low-angle style. Disc 2 includes Tokyo-ga, the 1985 feature by German director (and avid Ozu admirer) Wim Wenders. It's a tribute to Ozu's Japan, in which Wenders wanders the city searching for remnants of Tokyo as seen in Ozu's films, including interviews with Late Spring actor Chishu Ryu and Ozu's long-time cameraman Yuharu Atsuta. In keeping with Criterion tradition, a 21-page booklet is also included, containing informative essays by critic Michael Atkinson and renowned Japanese-film historian Donald Richie. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET FEATURES: New, restored high-definition digital transfer  
  • Tokyo-Ga (1985, 92 mins), legendary director Wim Wenders’ tribute to Yasujiro Ozu
  • Commentary by Richard Peña, program director of New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center
  • 24-page booklet with new essays by critic Michael Atkinson and renowned Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
  • New and improved English subtitle translation

Product Details

  • Actors: Chishû Ryû, Setsuko Hara, Yumeji Tsukioka, Haruko Sugimura, Hohi Aoki
  • Directors: Yasujirô Ozu
  • Writers: Yasujirô Ozu, Kazuo Hirotsu, Kôgo Noda
  • Producers: Chris Sievernich, Takeshi Yamamoto
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: May 9, 2006
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,104 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Late Spring (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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.
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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.
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Format: DVD
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.
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