Sunday, November 11, 2007

Banshun (Late Spring)

This 1949 Yasujiro Ozu film is a film that many consider as Ozu’s best and is the first one of a series of films about families. It tells the story of a widowed father and a mid twenties years old daughter that live happily together caring one for the other. But Noriko, the daughter, is well above the marriage age and has to get married even if she does not want to, as she doesn’t want to leave her father alone and assume the resposibilities of married life. That’s the story, but actually this movie is about anger, passion, humiliation, resentment and unhappiness and you’ll be able to see all this feelings with the great performance by one of Ozu’s favorite actresses Setsuko Hara that plays Noriko.

For about 45 minutes you will be able to see how happy they live in the daily postwar Japanese life, where “modern” women were just starting to emerge and Japanese society was also starting to transform itself. But traditions are traditions and as the father says (I’m paraphrasing) “that’s the way humans are and their history” meaning that there is a moment when you have to do what you’re supposed to do: get married and start your new life. So, the second part of the movie the feelings start to expose themselves in the face of Noriko that’s forcing herself to do what she does not want to do and in her father “sacrifice” that he absolutely does not want to make.

In the surface the story is very simple but the amazing performances, the slow pace, the long and medium shots, the still/fix camera and Ozu’s brilliant ability as a filmmaker and storyteller allow you to easily go deeper into the characters emotions. Then is easy to understand the reason why behind Ozu’s preference for this film, as is one of his two favorite films.

To me this is not an intense story as some of the previous Ozu movies I have seen, which I believe makes it easier to see to wider audiences that want to explore Ozu’s oeuvre. But be prepared to see many scenes where “nothing” happens in the surface.

The Criterion Collection 331 DVD comes with a second feature Tokyo-Ga a 90 minutes documentary by director Wim Weders done as a tribute to Yasujiro Ozu that shows Tokyo in the ‘80s as well as interviews with Ozu’s signature actor Chistu Ryu and long time cameraman Yuharu Atsuta. It’s like a love letter to Ozu and a must be seen.

Have to say that the movie is magnificent, but if I compare it to the previous movies I have seen by him, have to say that this one is different and with this movie he’s very different to Naruse or Mizogushi. I believe that I’m starting to really understand his unique style.


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