LATE SPRING (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)

Every girl should get married, and every father is doing the right thing by seeing to it that this happens—in letting his daughter go. This conventional wisdom, though, does not describe how Shukichi and Noriko Somiya, in Yasujiro Ozu’s Banshun, feel. Although no spring chicken (she is 27), Noriko has no interest in marriage and is as content remaining with her widowed father, a professor, as he is content in having her remain. But society takes a different view, and Masa, the professor’s sister, is especially meddlesome in her determination to get Noriko married. If her getting married is the way things ought to be, Shukichi comes up with a scheme to push Noriko out of the nest: he will pretend that he is about to get remarried. Noriko, whose smiles conceal disappointment, finally accepts a suitor’s proposal, and Shukichi ends up alone in his kitchen, peeling an apple. It drops to the floor. This, now, is the way life will be.
     Based on a novel by Kazuro Hirotsu, Late Spring benefits from a brilliant script by Ozu and Kôgo Noda. Social comedy and familial tragedy brush across one another. Self-determination is hard to come by; disappointment results from the compromises one makes in the course of one’s life. At the same time, however, Ozu hasn’t made an adolescent film decrying how bad things are. His film is one of acceptance. Ozu’s resigned acceptance, which is philosophical, not defeatist, is borne of the contemplation that permeates his postwar films. As usual, Ozu is peerless at capturing another intersection: the rush of emotion; the passage of time.
     And he has two perfect actors at his disposal, giving tremendously moving performances: Chishu Ryu as Shukichi, whose smiles conceal as much as his daughter’s, and Setsuko Hara as Noriko.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

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