This review is from: Late Spring / The Only Son (DVD + Blu-ray) (DVD)
Once again, as it would be with his most celebrated film, Tokyo Story (number 3 on the Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time list, while this could only manage a feeble 15th), Yasujiro Ozu's genius is in lulling the viewer into the film's gentle rhythms, and gradually layering intricate detail, until by the end one feels as if one really knows these characters, their fears and desires, the timbre of their everyday lives.
Noriko (Setsuko Hara) can't bear to leave her beloved father (Ozu favourite Chishu Ryu) and marry. Her agony is a form of grief, and her decision to move on is overshadowed by an agonising ambivalence. Noriko's luminous face is locked in a smile for the first hour, and it's a face that suits smiling; when the smile vanishes we grieve for her former joy.
What begins as soap opera gradually emerges as a dense, detailed and moving portrayal of the painful transition between family generations (hence the film's end-of-season title), as well as the transition from tradition to modernity. The film is primarily concerned with the individual's relationship with the family and with broader society in postwar Japan. For all his apparent gentleness, this is a filmmaker with an unflinching sense of social conscience, nostalgic and yet progressive.
As usual for Ozu, careful composition reigns over camera movement. At an aesthetic level this makes him the antithesis of Akira Kurosawa, whose Rashomon (released the following year) would pioneer dynamic techniques still used in the mainstream today. Ozu could not be called mainstream by today's standards. Late Spring, like all his films, demands patience and empathy on the part of the viewer. But, as always, one is richly rewarded.