Yasujiro Ozu’s first talkie, the uncommonly poignant The Only Son is among the Japanese director’s greatest works. In its simple story about a good-natured mother who gives up everything to ensure her son’s education and future, Ozu touches on universal themes of sacrifice, family, love, and disappointment. Spanning many years, The Only Son is a family portrait in miniature, shot and edited with its maker’s customary exquisite control. —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
Even as Ozu's first talkie, this film perfectly consummates Ozu's style and themes. It is a harrowing film about growing pains & expectations, parental love & sacrifice, and self-actualisation, complemented by exquisite cinematography & mise en scene. It's undoubtedly one of Ozu's greatest work, and that's saying a lot for one of the greatest directors of all time.
God bless you, Yasujiro Ozu. Your films have made my mother and I bond in ways that will never be forgotten as long as we live. Tonight we watched this on Hulu and the thematic elements - sacrificing for a son's education, being proud of your child's charity to others - registered more in 2013 Texas than they may have to your audiences in 1936 Japan. God bless you, my cinematic hero.