“If I left home, Father would be lost.”
An aging widower (Chishu Ryu) lovingly deceives his devoted daughter (Sesuko Hara) in order to convince her that she should marry.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “simply told yet lovely film” by Yasujiro Ozu showcases many of the themes the famed Japanese director would continue to explore in his later movies — including “the dissolution of the postwar Japanese family; the idea that married children… will become strangers to their parents; [and] the wise realization by the elderly that they must sacrifice their own happiness so that their children can make lives for themselves.” Ozu quietly evokes a specific time and place in post-WWII Japanese history, with most scenes focusing on the expressions and reactions of seated characters who are either pouring tea, folding clothes, chatting, or taking care of other daily activities. Ozu’s pace is refreshingly leisurely; his camera lingers quietly on scenes of the countryside, empty rooms about to be filled, and — most frequently — the lovely, smiling face of the film’s protagonist (Hara).
Peary points out that Ozu makes the fascinating choice of never showing us Hara’s young “Gary Cooper-esque” spouse-to-be — indicating that in some ways, Late Spring is really a tragic story of “star-crossed lovers” (father and daughter) who are unable to justify a continued lifetime together. While Ozu only hints at the titillation of Hara’s “unhealthy” devotion to her father, there is definitely “something not quite right with this special father-daughter relationship,” as noted in the Not Coming to a Theater Near You review (see link below). Indeed, any explicit mention of the need for sexual gratification is conspicuously absent from the film — although it would appear full-force in Ozu’s final movie, An Autumn Afternoon (1962), a virtual reworking of the same story.
P.S. Interestingly, many of Ozu’s films reference seasons in their titles — including Early Summer (1951), Early Spring (1956), Late Autumn (1960), Early Autumn (1961), and An Autumn Afternoon (1962).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Setsuko Hara as Noriko, whose near-constant smile belies the depth of her conflicting emotions
- Chishu Ryu as Noriko’s sacrificing father — this wonderfully understated actor is always a pleasure to behold on-screen
- Many quiet scenes between Hara and Ryu, who are ultimately too comfortable in their life together
- Beautiful black-and-white cinematography
- An interesting glimpse at American-occupied Japan after WWII
- An emotionally devastating, yet ultimately satisfying, ending
- Senji Ito’s lilting, strings-heavy musical score, which permeates the film and brings a lump to one’s throat
Yes. Ozu’s film is a provocative, lovingly rendered depiction of filial loyalty in mid-century Japan.