Directed by: Yasujirô Ozu
Starring: Chishû Ryû, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Teruo Yoshida
I am slowly making my way—not always by choice—through the works of Yasujirô Ozu. I think that’s probably the best approach, not in the least because the films are so alike that they threaten to run into each other. If you hooked all of the filmmaker’s work together, it would almost result in a single long film. It has been said that Ozu’s films are all the same (of course, it’s also sometimes said that Anton Bruckner didn’t so much write nine symphonies as he wrote the same symphony nine times) and while that’s a thematically valid point, it’s not technically true. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his final film An Autumn Afternoon (1962), which is essentially a reworking of his 1949 film Late Spring. They have similar plots (an aging man tussling with the question of getting his daughter married), the same star (Chishû Ryû) playing variations on the same character, and the tone is much the same—though not exactly. However, in the earlier film, Ozu had not yet so harnessed himself to the aesthetic of no camera movement and shooting most scenes from his trademark low angle. In the later film, the camera is as nailed down as in an American silent movie, and the low angle is adhered to as much as physically possible. Whether this is for the good or not is a personal call. I think it works here, but I would not want a steady diet of movies like this. This is also a less overtly emotional film, a more resigned work—one that seems to accept the changes in society (an Ozu constant) as not merely inevitable, but quite possibly for the better. Strangely compelling and indescribably sad in its sense of longing for so many things.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present An Autumn Afternoon at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com