If you're not familar with Japanese auteur Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963), you need to be warned that many of his stories are very slow paced with an emphasis on the ordinary. There are no paroxysms. And his characters don't show much intensity. But they do talk alot. His movies require viewers who can appreciate the quiet dramas of everyday life. So consider yourself warned.
While the 5 films that comprise this LATE OZU set are less famous than others which have already been released individually, they are worthy representatives of Ozu's later work.
EARLY SPRING (B&W, 1956) Perhaps my favorite Ozu film so far. Especially well acted by the actress playing the wife of a man who has become the focus of a pert and pretty co-worker (she was delectable).
TOKYO TWILIGHT (B&W, 1957) An unusually fast-paced and dramatically powerful film (this one was assigned to him, I understand) about two sisters with love-life problems living with their father. It's best not to say more about the plot. I liked this one alot.
EQUINOX FLOWER (Color, 1958) While Ozu's black & white films have an amazing beauty, his move into color films with this film was still a stunning revelation. However, this is my least favorite Ozu film (about a businessman who resists his daughter's independent nature but encourages others) yet I still found it watchable.
LATE AUTUMN (Color, 1960) This has the same premise as one of my favorite Ozu films (available separately), LATE SPRING, but turned upside down. Setsuko Hara, who played the daughter reluctant to marry in that one, plays the mother of a daughter reluctant to marry in this one. I found LATE SPRING much more powerful. This was slightly more light-hearted and the focus shifts outside the household to three aging, male matchmakers.
THE END OF SUMMER (Color, 1960) I found this one, Ozu's penultimate film, a little flat but still watchable. It was about three sisters who discover that their aging father (a widower) has taken up with his former mistress.
As you watch these and his other films, you will notice (1) he uses the same group of actors over and over, (2) he reuses camera setups and, maybe even the sets, (3) his camera is setup very close to the ground, (4) his camera almost never pans, and (5) the stories are slight variations on a theme.
If I have a complaint about Ozu films, it's a flaw he shares with many director-auteurs such as Hitchcock, Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Melville. He prefers to control the actors to the extent that he gets performances that shade towards the robotic. It's more noticeable in Ozu films cuz of the already stiff mannerisms of the Japanese culture. Still, that has never ruined an Ozu film for me.
As for other Ozu choices, I mentioned LATE SPRING (B&W, 1949) above -- it is available separately and is one of my favorite Ozu films. I didn't care much for TOKYO STORY but others consider it his greatest and one of the greatest films ever. (Both LATE SPRING and TOKYO STORY can be found in the Region 2 DVD "The Noriko Trilogy") There's a two-movie set distributed by the Criterion Collection which consists of a 1934 silent film, THE STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS, and it's 1959 color remake, FLOATING WEEDS. The latter has film commentary by premiere American film critic Roger Ebert which has invaluable insight into Ozu's movie making techniques as well as his background. (The Region 1 DVD can be found via this link. I don't know if a Region 2 is available.)
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