Friday, July 2, 2010

#331: Late Spring

(Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)

As I've said before, Ozu films don't really move me the way they are supposed to. Late Spring is a step closer to succeeding by the time its beautiful final scene unfolds, which oddly enough reminded me of the final scene in Big Night. But the rest of the film can be frustratingly slow and subtle, perhaps only saved for me by another great, mesmerizing performance by Setsuko Hara, who really is a true star, one I would compare to American contemporaries Bette Davis and Barabara Stanwyck in terms of command of the screen (though by no means in terms of persona). Without her, I may not have gotten through the film, which like every Ozu film seems almost daringly sparse.

The one thing any film fan knows about Ozu - even if they haven't seen his films - is that he is considered the "most Japanese" of all great Japanese directors. I often considered this a direct (and unfair) dig at Japan's most famous and most successful in the West director Akira Kurosawa, and a kind of pretentious attack on those who might consider his films too dull or contemplative. But I genuinely wonder what today's Japan thinks of Ozu. Certainly the pop culture of the country might be regarded as more Western than the West by that first person to label Ozu the quintessential Japanese director. So what would the country that created WarioWare: Smooth Moves really think of Late Spring? I can't help but think it wouldn't be that different than what I think of it: a beautifully made meditation on the shifting of generations that is only a moderate distraction from finishing Super Mario Galaxy 2.

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