This film is practically plot less and all the better for it,stripped as it is to bring people's character out. Drama/action is minimalist.This film is about the depiction of life,its moods,its cycle,its seasons. A character-driven development very much carried by the impartial yet intimate eye of his camera,inviting us to share the feelings of his characters.The way we are shown his people makes us their guests,encouraging our most solicitous attention. Both father and daughter have such a close bond of affectionate awareness and love its almost indelicate for them to break apart, and yet part they must. Noriko(Hara) is a loving,smiling daughter tending to her widowed father's needs. Yet she is 27 and is sacrificing her independence to her ailing father. He with the help of her aunt and her sister have to give her a few gentle nudges.He reminds her she has to find her own happiness with another man, a husband and it won't come at once.The professor(Ryu) has to lie byimplying he will marry a young widow. The most moving sequence is the 8 minute Noh drama scene at the centre of the film.This scene shows Noriko's awareness of her father's apparent interest in the attractive widow. This extended scene without dialogue in the respectful presence of the Noh drama enhances the characters' glances back and forth and with it Noriko's dawning realization her father may not need her.It's uncanny that Ozu lived with his mother all his life and Hara never married, retiring from films at the age of 43.
Post-war Tokyo sees this family's 3 generations living in the same house following the post-war austerity of life in Japan.We open on the beach with waves gently lapping the shore. This is followed by pictures of caged birds and these images reappear throughout the film providing continuity to the ritual of existence. The Mamiya's family's decision to wed their daughter has the unfortunate side-effect of causing the dissolution of their household.Noriko faces what is inevitable and unavoidable as a 28 year old single independent women.She faces pressures from her family, her boss(who suggests a possible candidate),her married brother Koichi(Ryu),her married childhood friends and her single friend.Her parents are unable to retire to her uncle's house in Yamoto until their duty to marry Noriko off to a worthy suitor has been fulfilled.One suitor of 40 years of age is investigated by her brother,just as this suitor sends a detective to inquire about Noriko.Noriko(Hara)has a playful sense which comes out when she is dealing with children in the household,questions from people about whether she likes the prospective suitor and when her married and single friends get together. Meanwhile, Koichi's widowed friend and colleague Kenkichi hasbeen transferred to Akita an agricultural province.Noriko visits Kenchiki's mother the day before while her son is out having a celebratory drink and on the mother confessing she had always wished Kenkichi would marry Noriko, Noriko impulsively accepts.Although her family are initially reluctant because Kenkichi has a child and they fear Noriko will be poor and far away, the sense of a ripening of the crop and a timing of the harvest becomes a metaphor for Noriko's marriage.The excellent ensemble nature of Early Summer with many characterisations and side-stories together with the element of strong humour when dealing with the elderly and the very young with many observations from real life make this a beautifully realized story. An elderly character leaves us with these parting words of wisdom: "We shouldn't want too much".
Tokyo Story is a poignant film by Ozu on the passing of time, the inevitability of loss,the rift between the generations in terms of expectations,the anxiety about change and mortality, the continual motion of life, the resignation to disappointment.The basic story is of the elderly couple, the Hirayamas, from the provinces visit to their grown-up married children in a busy Tokyo.Koichi, a paediatrician and Shige,a beautician, cannot find time out of their busy schedules, despite promising a trip to the theatre and a day out in Tokyo.Only their widowed daughter-in-law Noriko(Hara) has genuine feelings for them and time to share with them, despite working. Her husband died 8 years before in the war. Their blood children pack them off to Atami, a crowded,noisy spa. Shukishi(Ryu) and Tomi are cool with each other but affectionate.They realize they'd rather go home. Tomi's morbid musings on mortality come out as she watches her grandson pluck grass blades.She visits Noriko for a night stop- over and is overwhelmed by her generosity urging her to forget her son and move on andremarry.Shukichi decides to look up old drinking buddies and proceeds to get drunk saying how disappointed he is with his children's lives. Shige is very rude when he returns home drunk with his friend. Shige has got a tongue sharper than a serpents tooth reminding her father of his past drinking habits,her mother of her `fatness',she even begrudges the cakes her husband has bought for her parents and they proceed to eat them.The parents return home but Tomi falls sick and dies.The children now race to be by her sick bed and bicker about who gets her things before racing back to their own self-absorbed lives. The film is a study of the erosion of a family unit and ties with the march of modernity and the pace of the building up of post-war industrial Japan.Although nothing seems to happen there are deep complex emotions beneath the small-talk ,daily rituals,social etiquette. Deep feelings ride on a look,a smile, a sigh,aq pause,a change of tone. Ozu captures perfectly life's stillness especially between Shukichi and Noriko, their grace, selflessness,acceptance and lack of self pity. Ozu's shooting style is for tatami camera-positioning, little camera movement bringing out the details of physical spaces.The box shaped rooms are filmed allowing people to enter and exit,there is 180 degree cross-cutting between faces, involving spectators.These characters are allowed to develop.There are many establishing shots of tugs,trains,clotheslines,industrial backdrops. I'm glad I saw the previous films of this trilogy, Late Spring, Early Summer to appreciate what a great screen chemistry developed between Ryu and Hara and how their roles and relationship varies from film to film. And ends this one beautifully.