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aka - Akibiyori
Japan 1960
Directed by
Yasujiro Ozu
128 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Late Autumn

Yasujiro Ozu’s remarkable Late Autumn is a reworking of his 1949 film, Late Spring.  A distillation of his aesthetic, it is, characteristically, focused on the small dramas of everyday Japanese domestic life. In many ways, however, its narrative content is a mere scaffold for Ozu’s formal arrangements. Indeed  the scenes of uninhabited interiors are not only the clearest indication of that aesthetic they are also the most evocative of his sensibility, the emptiness speaking volumes about the lives of the characters.

The film tells the story of a widow, Akiko (Setsuko Hara, who played the daughter in Late Spring), and her daughter, Ayako (Yoko Tsukasa). At the sixth anniversary commemoration celebration, three long-time friends  of the deceased, Shuzo Taguchi (Nobuo Nakamura), Soichi Mamiya  (Shin Saburi), and Seiichiro Hirayama (Ryûji Kita), decide to find a husband for Ayako. But to do this they reason that Akiko must be re-married first so they suggest that Hirayama, a widower, would be an ideal candidate. At first reluctant, he comes around although Akiko knows nothing of the scheme. A comedy of errors ensues

Late Autumn is a portrait of the post-war transformation of Japanese society, contrasting the new Westernized ways of the younger generation with those of their parents. Ozu doesn’t try to update the earlier film in this respect and this earned him criticism at the time for being nostalgic but the givenness of the subject matter frees him to attend to his meticulous mise-en-scène which is consequently elevated to a thing-in-itself, albeit always resonantly so.  

Although because of the level of abstraction or stylistic essentialization probably not the best film of Ozu’s canon to serve as an introduction to the director’s work, and certainly not one to essay if you’re looking for thrill and spills, Late Autumn is an exquisite film.




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