Old 06-29-2009, 05:38 PM
Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring

Late Spring (1949)

Yasujiro Ozu's "Late Spring" is a film about people conforming to others' wishes. They know what they want, but other people involved believe they know what is best for them. In the end, going against their own consciences only leads to a vast amount of unhappiness for those who should have made their own decisions in the first place.

Noriko Somiya (Setsuko Hara) lives happily together with her father, Shukichi Somiya (Chishu Ryu). When Noriko's Aunt Masa (Haruko Sugimura) suggests to Shukichi that it is time for Noriko to find a husband, he begins to take this under serious consideration. At first, her aunt and father think that his business partner, Shuichi Hattori (Jun Usami), would make a good match, and indeed when Noriko and he spend an afternoon cycling together, they seem very happy. But it turns out he is already engaged to be married. Then her aunt suggests she meet another possible match and further pushes her towards a marriage that she clearly does not want.

Yasujiro Ozu is well-known for being able to take a simple story and turn it into something extraordinary. Take "Tokyo Story" for example, the story of two parents who go to visit their grown-up offspring, yet the children are so busy with everything else in their lives that they can't spend any time with them. However, when the parents return home and become sick, their children do everything in their power to be with them.

Or take another of Ozu's masterpieces, "Floating Weeds," the story of an acting troupe that comes to town. The master of the troupe has an old girlfriend in town whom he goes to visit, causing problems when one of the actresses of the troupe gets jealous. Both of these films have very simple stories, but are powerfully told.

In the case of "Late Spring," it has a very sweet story, though one that is not as strong as the two I just mentioned. This film left me with a lot of questions as to the motives of the characters. Both the father and daughter are knowingly acting against their own consciences and desires, only to go into a state in which they know they will be unhappy, which left me wondering simply, why?

What was the driving force behind their desire to conform when they were both obviously very happy with the current arrangement of them living together with Noriko caring for her father? The father wants his daughter to be happy, which starts off as his reason for him wanting her to find a husband, even though he tells him several times that he would be much happier staying with him, and even that marriage would not make her any happier.

She is worried about what will become of him after she has married and left, so he even lies to her, telling her that he has found someone whom he is willing to remarry. He later admits to a friend of Noriko's, Aya (Yumeji Tsukioka), that this is "the biggest lie he's ever told." Aya then tries to persuade Shukichi not to remarry. Why would she do this? Why shouldn't Shukichi have a companion to spend his days with after his daughter is gone?

There's a particularly bizarre scene near the end where Noriko is trying to tell her father that she wants to stay with him, but Shukichi gives her a strange speech in which he says that she will be unhappy for the first year, perhaps several, as she and her new husband build their life together. This is not exactly the most convincing pro-marriage speech I have ever heard.

When the wedding is over, almost everyone is left unhappy, and why, because of a pushy aunt? There just didn't seem to be any reason for Noriko and Shukichi to do what they did when they were already perfectly happy together. The final scene is almost enough to bring tears to the eyes. We see Shukichi go back home after the wedding and when he is finally alone, he sits down and begins to peel an apple. When the peel drops to the floor, he stops, and hangs his head, in an incredibly heartbreaking display of grief.

To reiterate, I did like this film despite all of these questions that arose while watching it. It's interesting to note that I did not discover the greatness of "Tokyo Story" and "Floating Weeds" until after I had thought about them for several days, weeks even. For all I know, the same thing will happen with this film. Only time will tell. 3/4 stars.
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Old 06-29-2009, 05:41 PM
i love late spring
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