Yasujiro Ozu’s final film was also his final masterpiece, the gently heartbreaking story of a man’s dignified resignation to both life’s ever-shifting currents and society’s gradual modernization. Though widower Shuhei Hirayama (Ozu’s frequent leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master’s films, An Autumn Afternoon (Sanma no aji) is one of cinema’s fondest farewells. —The Criterion Collection
Yasujiro Ozu was born in the old Fukagawa district of Tokyo, to a fertilizer merchant, in 1903. In 1923, after a couple of years as an assistant teacher in rural Japan, Ozu was hired as assistant cameraman at the Shochiku Motion Picture Company. Early in his career, Ozu began to experiment with an idiosyncratic film style that ran contrary to the conventions of Japanese or Hollywood cinema of the day. He strove to reduce and simplify his film style; he cast such mainstays as the fade, the dissolve, and the pan from his cinematic palette. He shot solely from a low camera angle, using a 50mm lens, and he subordinated spatial continuity to visual aesthetics. Ozu directed his first film in 1927,The Sword of Penitence. In 1932, he began to hit his creative stride with the touching comedy I Was Born, But…, which was his first commercial success. During World War II, he made few films such as There Was a Father.
After the war, Ozu reached his creative peak and made some of his finest… read more
Hearing so much of Ozu's concentration on the death of the family in Japan, my first viewing left me almost disappointed. He just drinks water? Now life has taught me that this is one of the most terrifying and depressing images in cinema. Ozu's cinema is not a brick to the face, it's a bitter glass of whiskey after life smashes you with a brick to your face.
The best audio commentary I've encountered so far is Bordwell's on An Autumn Afternoon, on the Criterion disc. Free of the kind of padding typical of most commentaries, it's packed with small observations about the little patterns, rhythms, repetitions in the film, and is well coordinated with the action on screen.
As the NYFF celebrates its 50th year, a look at the posters from the films that made up its first incarnation in 1963.
The basic mold of a late 40s/50s/early 60s Ozu film is parent and daughter, parent wants to marry off daughter or daughter wants to be married off, conflict arises out of each other caring for one… read review
Every now and then I pop in an Ozu Criterion so I can reflect on my own life and relationship with my parents/siblings. I wonder what I’ll be talking about with my friends when we are in our 60s reminiscing… read review
Ozu’s long career saw an evolution spanning silent film, sound, and a reluctant use of color. Paradoxically, his visual style became more and more essential with each passing work. An Autumn Afternoon… read review