Late Spring (1949)

Late Spring (1949), directed by YasujirĂ´ Ozu.

A deceptively simple story: a young woman lives with her professor father and cares for him. She enjoys her life and feels no need to change. He is easy to get along with and she gets out and does what she wants otherwise. Simple pleasures; she's a good girl. But the father and an auntie won't be satisfied until she is married off. Should she resist, or just go along with what is expected of her?

In the conflict between freedom (selfishness?) and tradition is anything resolved? Everyone has regrets. The father has the last scene: has he made a mistake, or is this just the pain that life inevitably brings?

The tone and setting are very curious: it's 1949, but we see no evidence of the War and little of the American occupation. (That's partly due to censorship). Everyone is happy and pleasant with one another. They wear both traditional and modern clothing and seem comfortable with both old Noh theater and new commuter trains.

And yet: we have oblique references to wartime forced labor and food shortages. Perhaps Noriko is so attached to her father because they lost years of family time during the war. When and how did her mother die? Has post-war modernity brought new freedom to the single woman? With that freedom comes what other problems?

As the commentary points out, Ozu's minimalism makes him seem more contemporary to us than other directors of that time. His camera shots are often from a very low angle, even below the eye-line of a person sitting on a floor mat. Scenes that would be essential to another storyteller (the wedding, for example) are omitted, but in scene transitions he will cut to landscape shots for a few moments of restfulness.

A variety of music is used, sometimes meditatively ambient.

This is my first Ozu film. I found these essays instructive:

Criterion Blu-ray. Quite a lot of film damage with many vertical lines. Insightful commentary track.