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Quick-Thoughts: Yasujirō Ozu’s Late Spring (1949)

Okay, I understand the concept of leaving your parent/parents’ house at an appropriate time in your life, but having marriage as the only resort to solving this issue? I’d have to agree with Noriko: that’s L-A-M-E. Damn you, post-World War II era!

Late Spring is a comely-looking, black-and-white motion picture with a keen eye for lighting intricacies—the hallway shots are to die for! The 1949 feature-length stars a cuddly father figure character that represents the last age of “decent” men that weren’t left to die at war, the token, confident-speaking Aunt who’s in the household from time to time, and, of course, the “unique” single lady lead character who is polarized by the construct of discovering the new and leaving behind the old. One of Yasujirō Ozu’s earliest acclaimed classics is a solid exhibition in how happiness is never really a continuous process and is rather one that is usually achieved after we have matured into the new parts of our forever-growing lives. 

The strong suit of Late Spring comes down to the tied relationship between father and daughter. Shukichi is a widower who relies on Noriko to help him with his everyday routine, especially in the house. Company and wisdom are important to Noriko, though, and she often finds it easy and comforting when learning it from her father. Yet, the two are under slight pressure by the assimilation of their culture and relatives, many of which think it’s about time that Noriko got married. Noriko is afraid of her father’s eventual life of loneliness, nonetheless, and doesn’t yearn to see the termination of what was an endlessly joyful bond in both of their eyes. Maybe it’s time for Shukichi to make a parental sacrifice for the betterment of his child.

So, awe, yes, such a bittersweet, classical-type story, huh? In terms of my main issue with Late Spring, however, besides me thinking that the film’s simplicity and predictability didn’t necessarily stand the test of time to an utmost quality due to its limitation on plot…

After the (elongated and, frankly, repetitive) opening 45 minutes of the film, the main character has her first (overly) drastic “tonal turning point” in which the phony, happy-go-lucky environment of the movie where everybody seemed cheery 24/7—emphasized by the film’s old-school-styled music, acting, dialogue, and momentarily poppy yet occasionally random segments—suddenly vanishes. Maybe it’s my unfamiliarity with the culture during this time period, but for a movie about sadness, Late Spring really takes the time to set up these characters as if they’re in a dreamy, peachy fairytale despite said circumstances… Yes, the father and daughter living relationship is established to be prosperous, but, people can’t be this perfectly contained until one singular person decides to bug you with an upsetting proposition, right? The inner-workings of happiness and sadness can’t be this straightforward, right?

Oh well, it’s a shamelessly ultra-romanticized movie; so be it. Plus, I enjoyed it at the end of the day, and that’s what matters most! Its themes are intriguing and reflective, it’s just said circumstances in the plot feel obsolete, elementary, and almost borderline corny. But again, it’s still enjoyable. By the way, here’s a new drinking game: take a sip every time there’s a shot of someone in Late Spring smiling. Have a nice trip!

Verdict: B-

“Late Spring” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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