Friday, September 23, 2011
I watched Late Spring, directed in 1949 by Yasujirô Ozu. It's a really great film. Sad, but still quiet and tender. Everything about it is wonderful, from the way it is filmed to the story. I thought I'd be too tired from work to focus on something as delicate as n Ozu film, but honestly, I felt really alert and interested the whole time it was on, like I got a second wind or something. I feel tired now, but Anthony bought me Bridesmaids today, and even though I've seen it already, I'm really determined to stay up and watch it. Time for an energy drink, I guess.
The film is about Noriko, a 27 year old girl who still lives at home with her father, who is widowed. She takes care of him extensively - cooking for him, cleaning for him, keeping him company. 27, apparently, is far too old to be unmarried, and Noriko's family and friends try to pressure her into marriage. She doesn't want to - she's happy where she is in her life. That's the central conflict of the film, but I don't want to ruin the rest of it. It's hard to talk about it without doing it, though. I'll try to do my best. Probably I'll end up spoiling it though, so be forewarned.
I think what drew me into the movie the most was the story. I was really interested in the characters. I liked Noriko, and I appreciated that she was able to admit that she was comfortable in her life, and was happy to take care of her father. I felt bad for her that everyone was pressuring her to take a different direction in her life - it seemed easy to relate to. The plot is so incredibly simple and the people are so incredibly normal. That's part of what makes the film so great. It was so easy to get lost in it because it's so everyday and easy to understand and relate to. Sometimes films like this can be daunting because we assume we don't have much in common with characters from another culture or time, but here, as in many other movies, we can realize how similar we all really are.
I really liked how the story was told, as well. It was really different and interesting. There were a lot of important scenes in the movie that took place off-screen. Spoiler alert, but Noriko's entire marriage ceremony takes place off-screen. I know a lot of people who would be irritated by this for a variety of reasons, but I personally love it. I often think that what we can imagine is more powerful than what we can be told. I like being left on my own to envision what the ceremony was like. what her expression was, how sad she felt inside (and if it showed on the outside). More power is given to the story, and more weight is placed on these events because we think about them much more after not seeing them than if we had (or at least I do). We never even see who Noriko is going to marry, and personally, I thought it was more interesting to wonder if he really looked like Gary Cooper or not than to see him and actually know.
I just adore how Ozu treats his films. The movie was sad, because at the end (spoilers, obviously) we see how deeply sad Noriko's father is, and we can imagine how deeply sad she herself is. It's so frustrating because I just wanted them both to be happy! But even though it was sad, it felt so tender and quiet. You could feel the care and thoughtfulness that went into making the film, the love for the characters. He handles everyday life the same way you might handle a big important or historical event or something, giving average people and stories the attention that they deserve. There's a lot of analysis out there about his style and the themes and meanings of his work, but I'm not an Ozu expert, so I didn't want to really enter into that conversation. It out there, though, if you are interested. It's really neat to read about it, there's a lot of information and cool stuff out there.
Have any thoughts about Late Spring? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Late Spring
Buy it on Amazon