*52. Akibiyori (Late Autumn) (11/13/60) (125 min.) [Sound Color] [buy it here]
A girl lives with her mother. Though she has had opportunities to marry, she refused, preferring to stay at home. The widowed mother, however, feels that her daughter is sacrificing herself and attempts to find her a suitable husband. The daughter opposes this until she comes to believe, mistakenly, that her mother is motivated by a desire to remarry. The mother goes back to the apartment and begins her life alone.
- From the Late Ozu set on Eclipse.
- A remake of Late Spring with the mother threatening to remarry rather than the father.
- Three men make up an important unit in this film -- all splendid actors completely at ease with the Ozu style:
Also, note how this film uses green throughout, similar to the way he used red in Equinox Flower and Good Morning.
- Mamiya is late for the service. He finds his way through the various rooms into the main room and joins his friends (who have saved a spot for him).
- 0:09:03: He completes a medium three-shot as he kneels next to Hirayama. (Sound: Bhuddist chanting) Taguchi: "You're late."
- Mamiya: "Yes, a bit."
- Hirayama: "It just started."
- Mamiya: "Then I'm too early."
- 0:09:16: The room where they had tea earlier. Notice all the different screen frames created by the door angles. Combined with the white tea cups and pot and a large dark urn at frame right, this is a magnificent, flat composition. [5 sec]
- 0:09:21: Hallway, more sub-frames; greenery interspersed on frame left. [6 sec]
- 0:09:27: Large, standing screen; red fire extinguisher and white tea cup on right. [5 sec]
- 0:09:32: (Sound: chanting stops, replaced by soft putt-putt of motorboat): Magnificent shot! On the far left and right of frame are the ends of the open shoji. A bridge, completely silhouetted in black against the dark blue sky, fills most of the frame. [8 sec]
- 0:09:40: Interior: Top of frame, centered, a painting of an old-fashioned bridge. The light, reflected off the sea, ripples against the wall with the painting. [6 sec]
- 0:09:46: Long pull-back into hallway. If you pay careful attention, the geometry becomes clear -- you can see the lefthand two-thirds of the bridge painting, which orients you from the previous cut. A maid crosses left to right; we hear men laughing [9 sec]
- 0:09:55: The party (L-R): Ayako Miwa (Yôko Tsukasa); Akiko Miwa (Setsuko Hara); Hirayama, Mamiya and Taguchi.
Ozu does something very interesting in this scene. We will later find the men coming to the realization that in order to marry off Ayako, they are also going to have to find a husband for the widow, Akiko, because Ayako will never marry, knowing that her mother would be left alone. (Exactly as in Late Spring.)
The men question Ayako about the type of man she'd like to marry:
- 0:10:54: Mamiya: "Time to get married, eh Akiko?"
- Akiko: "Yes. Please let us know of any suitable prospects."
- "I'm sure there are plenty. Ayako's very beautiful."
- Taguchi: "What type do you like? Don't just smile." The camera frames Ayako as she giggles and acts shy. Hirayama, off-camera: "Tell us." She says nothing.
- Taguchi: "What if he were like me?"
- Now she doesn't hesitate. "I'd like him."
- Mamiya straightens up. "What about me?"
- "I like your type too."
- Hirayama: "Well that tells us nothing. They're completely different. (beat) What about me?"
- "You'd do too."
- (wide shot) Mamiya: "Just 'you'd do.' You're out!"
- "I'm out?"
- "That'll teach you to butt in."
Although everyone in the room knows that they are joking about the older men actually marrying the young and beautiful Ayako (they are speaking of "types"), this scene has weight to it in retrospect because later, the widower Hirayama will indeed become a candidate for remarriage with Akiko ...
- 0:34:26: An important distinction between the 1949 storyline and this one: Unlike Noriko, Ayako tells her mother that she'll happily marry if she "really loves someone." Noriko makes no such exception. Attitudes have changed in 11 years, and I think Ozu wants to show us that in 1960, even this daughter -- exceptionally filial -- would be willing to leave the nest for a real "love match."
She is stunningly beautiful.
Her father was Tokihiko Okada, who appeared in five Ozu films, and starred in the only surviving film of the five, Tokyo Chorus. He died one year after she was born.
Okada was 27 when she made this film.
0:52:30: The Japanese have a strange tradition of waving goodbye at trains and airplanes even when the passenger and the person waving goodbye might be miles apart! Here Ayako and Yukiko go up to the roof of their building and wave at their friend who just got married. They are disappointed she didn't wave back (with her bouquet). Ozu found a new way to score his theme of schoolgirls drifting apart when one of them marries.
How often we've seen the Noriko-type, who is "disgusted" at the idea of remarriage; here, we see the opposite, when Hirayama's son is quite enthusiastic about the idea. First -- like everyone else -- he is struck by Akiko's beauty, and second, he remarks how inconvenient life might be (for his wife, he says) if his father had to live with him when he got married. Hirayama warms to the idea, although no one has yet bothered to ask Akiko how she feels!
- 1:23:00: Earlier, Hirayama "would do" as a "type" for marriage to Ayako. Now she hears from Mamiya that he is a candidate to remarry her mother. Ozu must maintain tension in the story for awhile, but in my opinion it is a bit ludicrous that Akiko doesn't just come out and say she has no intention of remarrying (she doesn't) ...
- 1:29:00: Exactly as in Late Spring , Ayako storms out after Yukiko tells her she's being selfish.
- 1:41:00: As I stated earlier, Yukiko becomes the deus ex machina of the denouement. First, she learns the truth from Akiko and here she confronts the astonished male trio in Mamiya's guest lounge. Dialogue from Hirayama indicates an elision:
- "Good thing you have a guest lounge. She yelled at me in front of everyone at the university."
Here -- however -- reprising the Ryu/Hara scene from the earlier film, Akiko tells Ayako all about the fact that she has no intention to remarry. Ayako cries, perhaps realizing she's been manipulated. In my opinion, the way the earlier script dealt with daughter's feelings, was more deep and complex, more nuanced and more ambiguous.
We see more of the actual wedding here than usual. Everyone looks stunning. The final shot of the couple getting their wedding portrait taken segues to repeats of earlier pillow shots (0:09:32, 0:09:40 and 0:09:46, above), taking us into the post-wedding drinking of the Three-Not-So-Wise-Men.
"It was fun," exclaims Taguchi. But Hirayama is disappointed.
Ozu's coda here rightly focuses on Akiko, alone in her apartment after a visit from Yukiko. Her final expression conveys everything that Ozu and Noda have carefully planted in order to facilitate our understanding of this (these) character in this final moment of mono no aware.
However, even that is not enough for Ozu. He cuts to the hallway outside of the apartment, still and gray.
*53. Kohayagawa-ke no aki (The End of Summer) (10/29/61) (103 min.) [Sound Color] [buy it here]
An older man has had three daughters by his wife, one by a former mistress. The eldest daughter is widowed but getting ready to remarry; the second is married and her husband runs the family business, a sake plant; the third has already had her husband picked out by the family. When the father decides to take up with his former mistress, the daughters are upset. In the midst of this the father has a heart attack, and later dies.
- From the Late Ozu set on Eclipse.
- A stupendous masterpiece. Like Early Summer (1951), this is a family drama with many characters. The majority of the film is as light and tenuous as a feather. Death triumphs in the end of course -- but here it darkens the Ozu-scape in a way hitherto unseen.
- Made for Toho, this is only the third film in his entire career made for a studio other than Shochiku.
- Toshirô Mayuzumi again contributes a fantastic score.
- Listen carefully, and see if you can't hear Bach's famous keyboard Prelude in C Major woven throughout the overture ...
- 0:02:33: Ozu quickly moves us through two stills to get us into the bar. The first is a blinking neon canyon with a sky of deep midnight blue/purple taking up most of the frame / cut / closer to the neon signs ("City of Osaka") / cut / Overture fades, we're inside the bar, soft piano jazz background ...
- Isomura (Hisaya Morishige). Both the actor and character are fascinating. Morishige was 10 years Ozu's junior, but only died recently, in 2009, age 96.
- He didn't start acting until he was 34, but managed to rack up an impressive 206 IMDb credits. This was his only appearance in an Ozu film.
- Isomura has one of those terrific faces which make character actors such characters, right? Ozu/Noda also give his personality a tweak with the cow fixation (he was born in the Year of the Ox) ...
- 0:30:19: Yuriko (Reiko Dan) is Tsune (Chieko Naniwa)'s daughter. Kohayagawa (Ganjiro Nakamura) may or may not be her father. Her entrance here in her raspberry dress and white heels defines her character pretty well; she nags Kohayagawa to buy her a mink coat.
- 0:58:25: The visible film structure is so familiar by now. Father has collapsed. Noriko (Yôko Tsukasa) calls the doctor. Five pillow shots, all five or six seconds:
- Interior of office, looking outwards. (Phone ringing)
- Grandfather clock (10:08)
- Interior of house (Sound of distant train)
- Another room, empty. Glass of tea on tray; smoking mosquito coil
- Empty hallway
- We join the family, bedside ...
I suppose Ozu didn't want his audience to feel too bad when the cast of characters got too confusing. Yamaguchi (Kyû Sazanka, Ushitora in Yojimbo) explains to Hisao (Keiju Kobayashi), the spy in Sanjuro):
- "Who is the man who just arrived?"
- "His younger brother."
- "From Nagoya?"
- "No, he's from Tokyo. The woman who came here earlier today is from Nagoya. She's his younger sister."
- "So she's the older sister of the ..."
- "No, no. Listen up. The woman from Nagoya and the wife of the gentleman from Osaka -- wait, now I'm confused. Okay, the wife of the man from Osaka is Mr. Kohayagawa's -- he was an orphan, you know? -- is his dead wife's younger sister."
- "I see. Very complicated.
- "The Kohayagawa family is complicated indeed."
1:13:23: Father plays hide-and-seek with both his grandson and his daughter.
1:31:06: After Father dies, Ozu cuts to two new characters, farmers washing out their tools and produce in the river. The man is played by Ozu regular Chishu Ryu. From there, pillow shots of the crematorium chimneys and into the final family scenes.
Later, we see the reactions of the family members to the smoke from the chimney ... eventually we return to the farmers. The cycle of life. The final shots feature many crows, universal symbol of death.
*54. Sanma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon) (11/18/62) (112 min.) [Sound Color] [buy it here]
A company auditor, widowed and getting on in years, lives with his son and daughter and has as friends a few men his own age. From one of them he hears of the marriage of yet another friend's daughter. This sets him thinking about his own daughter. He decides that she should marry, and eventually arranges it with a young man recommended by his friends. They all drink together once more, and he realizes that he is getting old, and that he is alone.
- The final film.
- Criterion DVD, Spine #446.
- Commentary by David Bordwell. This is the best commentary of any of the Criterion releases. Bordwell takes you through a tour of Ozu's style, pointing out all the miraculous little details, describing the careful stitching together and filled with deep insights into what Ozu is trying to say.
- Excerpts from "Yasujiro Ozu and The Taste of Sake," a 1978 French television program looking back on Ozu's career, featuring critics Michel Ciment and Georges Perec.
- Two theatrical trailers, one made during the filming and the second when the film was finished with post production and about to open. In both trailers, there are clips of Ozu himself, directing his actors, looking through the camera, etc. Precious stuff.
- Geoff Andrew essay -- excellent and a short Donald Richie piece on the Ozu diaries.
- The literal Japanese translation of the title is "The Taste of Mackerel."
- The beautiful Mariko Okada is Akiko, married to Koichi.
- The color scheme of black, red and white is obvious from the very first cut to the last...
I bid you adieu with one final goodie:
- Check out the scene between Koichi (Keiji Sada) and his friend Miura (Teruo Yoshida) as they discuss Michiko. Watch the soy sauce bottle jump across the table from cut to cut.