Sunday, 31 January 2010

Late Autumn - Filmhouse - 31/1/10

When three friends of Miwa gather, after seven years, to commemorate his death they are each struck by how beautiful his widow Akiko has remained. Of equal importance to them is the fact their old friends daughter, Ayako, remains unmarried. Together the three decide that they will find a suitable partner for the daughter and help her to find happiness in marriage. The stumbling block to all of this is that Ayako has no interest in marrying because she doesn't want to leave her mother alone so the friends determine to find a husband for her so that the daughter will have no reason not to marry. A familiar story to fans of Ozu but, again, delivered in such a way as to make one feel that it is fresh and alive.

Once again Setsuko Hara plays a central role, this time as the mother of the single daughter and not as the single daughter and proves her ability as an actress with a tremendous performance. That she retired over 40 years ago (shortly after the death of Ozu) is a great shame and loss. Here she displays all the love and devotion that one would imagine a wife and mother to possess in an ideal world and that is what she represents; an idealised vision of womanhood...strong, capable, loving, devoted, loyal and beautiful.

As well as the use of colour another interesting departure point in this film from the others in the Filmhouse Ozu season is the character of Yukiko (Mariko Okada) who represents the voice of the "new" Japan...loyal to what she believes is good about her countries codes and practices but embracing of the new Western ideals. The scene where she challenges the three (male) friends of Miwa over their plan to marry off mother and daughter is wonderful...funny but equally revealing of the new post-war generation in Japan.

Much here is familiar from the other two films in the "Noriko Trilogy"; Setsuko Hara, unmarried children, concern for parents, loyalty, marriage and the shift in Japanese society but much is new; the use of colour, a much broader humour and the stronger character of the women.

Another example of why Ozu should be much more widely known and much more highly praised.

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