Late Spring (Day 21)

Late SpringMy Opinion: 5.6 || I really wish I could rate this higher. It’s a classic that appears on many people’s lists of the best films ever made. But not until the last twenty minutes did the film take on any poignancy for me – for the rest of the running time, I found it visually dull and emotionally unengaging. Although it’s touching in the end, the story has little narrative momentum and the characters and their conflicts don’t feel sufficiently compelling.

TITLE:  Late Spring (Banshun)
DIRECTOR:  Yasujirô Ozu
LANGUAGE: Japanese | COUNTRY:  Japan
YEAR: 1949
PROFILE: Drama | 108 minutes | IMDb (8.2)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): Noriko is 27 years old and still living with her widowed father. Everybody tries to talk her into marrying, but Noriko wants to stay taking care of her father.

Strengths: Again, I feel like a bit of a dope for not finding more to like in such a highly lauded film. It’s interesting as a window into post-war Japanese customs and cultural values, and the relationship between the father and his daughter does wind up achieving some poignancy. Most interesting is Ozu’s decision not to show Noriko’s eventual husband – it’s a smart aesthetic choice.

Late Spring (resized)

Weaknesses: Of all the movie’s I’ve watched in this run, here is where I’m most tempted to turn on the commentary track. I’m sure there are some finer points of direction that are lost on me. As it is, I found Ozu’s camera work to be clean but also bland, with no particularly interesting framing or other qualities that make for strong visual interest.

For instance, when Noriko and her father go to watch a kabuki play, we move from one static shot of them watching, then to a static shot of the chorus singing, then back and the same static shot of them watching, and so on. The scene does eventually go somewhere, but it’s hardly an example of nimble storytelling. This is one minor example, but it’s indicative of an overly literal film style. I’m a fan of filmmaking patience (a.k.a. slowness) and a deep focus on the details of everyday life. But it needs to be immersive, and I didn’t find this to be.

Characters/Performances: Chishû Ryû is good as Noriko’s father, with a warm affect that added to every scene. But I’m not sure there’s a lot of range in the performance. And Setsuko Hara’s performance as Noriko didn’t completely work. She does show range, as her happiness starts to break down, but I never felt very drawn to her character or captivated by her plight.

Late Spring 5 (resized)

Best Moment: The last dialogue between Noriko and her father is quite nice, as are the two following scenes, which conclude the film, as we come to appreciate Mr. Somiya’s dignity and sacrifice. It’s not enough of a payoff, in my view, but still very nice.

File Under: family struggle, marriage, fathers and daughters