Review of Late Spring

Late Spring (1949)
Pain and commitment
18 November 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Belated rhyme brings us to postwar Japan, defeated, busy and full of Coca-Cola signs. The country is going through a very strong identity crisis. Given this, Ozu presents us with a duality already famous in his cinema: modern and booming cities, such as Tokyo, compared to more traditional places, such as Kyoto itself. Ozu uses all possible cultural and stylistic conventions to tell us the dramatic story of separation between Noriko (Setsuko Hara) and her father, Shukichi (Chisu Ryu). How does a father act when his daughter becomes part of another family? Marriage is to blame.

The fact that it is also a marriage of convenience makes the separation more painful and dramatic. Ozu is very comfortable in this context, which he brings us closer to in a very natural way. It is a very simple plot, but executed and exploited in a masterful way through novel narrative strategies.

We could say that the first one is to hide important information, so that when it is revealed, the effect is greater (neither Shukichi, nor we know that she is going to get married until she tells it laughing); another could be the narrative transitions and their "pillow shots" (Onodera and Noriko discuss going to an art exhibition; the transition shows us the poster of this, and then we are shown in a bar after the visit) and the ellipsis, in which the true story lies (Noriko rides a bicycle with Hattori in what seems like a romantic scene; however, he has a girlfriend, and the jealousy that she feels encourages him to marry later). In addition, the film also has symbolic reading: Hatori (Jun Usami) goes alone to the theater, as a premonition; the title, Late Spring, refers to the play that Noriko watches with her father, a play that reflects on the couple and sexual attraction: a turning point for Noriko.

"One of the most perfect, most complete, and most successful studies of character ever achieved in Japanese cinema."

But, without a doubt, what has caught my attention the most has been Ozu's complex approach to the characters. Noriko is a young woman who depends economically and emotionally on her father, which is why she is very reluctant to marry; She plays the role of "wife" or even "mother" of her father. However, you are smart enough to catch the signs and make the final decision to get married.

On the other hand, Shukichi, he's not your typical iron-fisted professor; it is the "non-patriarchy patriarchy." He is a character who knows his role in the world and sticks to it emotionally; For this reason, at the end of the film, her heartbroken loneliness becomes the protagonist.

I have never seen a more emotional ending in my life than Late Spring. Noriko smiles without being happy, while her father is forced to accept what is happening. The aunt fulfills her task satisfied and takes Noriko from the room. Shukichi arrives at her house, now empty, and defeated, leaves her coat. He sits down to eat an apple, which he cannot peel. He surrenders and we listen to the sea. So true that it gets under your skin; two people heartbroken for doing the right thing for each other. Nobody believes what just happened.
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