The End of Summer - On Brightness and Darkness
By Doron B. Cohen (Kyoto, Japan)

This is one of Ozu's most beautiful films to look at, with constant shifts between bright and dark scenes. The brightness and darkness are not used as symbols: the cremation of the old man's body takes place under dazzling light, while some of the most comic scenes take place in relative darkness. This is another of the many ways by which Ozu surprises his audience, acting against their expectations. In fact, this is also another expression of Ozu's realism: in real life terrible things often happen under the naked sun's light rather than under the cover of darkness.

The story is combined of familiar themes: the death of a parent, the need to marry off a daughter, the breaking up of a large family, and so on. But as always with Ozu there are some new twists and turns, and some new ways of telling, which we encounter as we become familiar with the Kohayakawa family, the owners of a small sake brewery, and with the lives and fortunes of its numerous members.

The history of the family - as their chief clerk admits - is very complicated, and not all the details are clear. The printed script yields the following information (revealing also that some of the details given in Bordwell's book are inaccurate):

The current head of the family, Manbei, who was an orphan, married the eldest daughter (name unknown) of the Kohayakawa family, and was adopted, becoming the head of the family following his father-in-law. Manbei's dead wife had two sisters:

The elder, Shige, married into the Kato family from Nagoya; she appears when Manbei first has his heart attack, and also at the cremation.

The younger, Teruko, is seen several times with her husband, Kitagawa Yanosuke, "the uncle from Osaka" who is trying to get Akiko married to his friend.

Manbei also has a real brother, Hayashi Seizō, who comes from Tokyo when Manbei has his heart attack, but does not attend the cremation (what we see near the end of the film is not the formal funeral, which would take place a few days later).

Manbei had at least three children:

The elder son, Kōichi, did not want to continue in the family business and became a university professor. He married Akiko, who now works at an art gallery, and had a son, Minoru, but died young.

The elder daughter, Fumiko, married Hisao, who apparently was also adopted into the family and runs the business. They have one son, Masao.

The youngest daughter, Noriko, who works at the office of a large company, is yet to be married.

Manbei may also had a daughter, Yuriko, with his former mistress Tsune, but the true identity of Yuriko's father is not clear.

As often with Ozu films, the story is a constant play between the older and younger generations. The focus may be on Manbei and his shenanigans, but it is also about the marriage of the young daughter, as well as the possible marriage of the widowed daughter-in-law. Somehow, in spite of the large and complex family, everything seems more simple and concise than in some of the other films (and with a running time of only 103 minutes, this film is considerably shorter than most of Ozu's post-war films). Also, some emotions and intentions are more starkly exposed than usual: the lust for life of the old man, the gold-digging of the mother and daughter from Kyoto, and even the deep affection between sisters-in-law (played by Hara Setsuko and Tsukasa Yōko, who played mother and daughter in a similar situation in Ozu's former film). This affection is expressed through the careful use of one of Ozu well-known means of telling-through-showing: the action in unison. We see the two women squat and rise as one, as a sign for their deep mutual understanding and same-mindedness.

The End Of Summer is one of only three films that Ozu made for companies other than his home studio, Shōchiku. This one was made for Tōhō, using that studio's staff rather than the usual people who worked with Ozu in most of his post-war films (and in some cases, also pre-war ones). Perhaps this also explains the appearance of many unfamiliar faces among the actors and actresses. Only three of Ozu's regulars appear here (Hara Setsuko, Sugimura Haruko, Ryū Chishū), as well as a few actors who appeared in only one other film (Nakamura Ganjirō, Tsukasa Yōko, Naniwa Chieko, Katō Daisuke, Mochizuki Yūko), but many appear only in this film, and must have came from Tōhō's stables. Some of these one-timers give a truly wonderful performance: emotional but confident (Aratama Michiyo as the elder daughter Fumiko), slightly comical (Sazanka Kyū as the chief clerk), or farcical (Morishige Hisaya as Akiko's hapless suitor).

According to Donald Richie, in his groundbreaking book about Ozu (p. 63), in this film Ozu went a long way to accommodate actors' wishes: Mochizuki Yūko, a famous actress who earlier had a short scene in only one of Ozu's film wanted to be in another, and Ozu's regular actor Ryū Chishū also had to be fitted in somehow, so Ozu added the scene of the farmer husband and wife commenting on the cycle of life towards the end of the film, a scene that many critics had found superfluous. And on the lighter note, this is probably the only Ozu film with the participation of gaijin (foreigners), in the figures of "George" and "Harry", Yuriko's boyfriends; their real identity is unknown, and they get no mention in the titles.

The film ends on a somber note, with crows perching over tombstones, but we must remember that earlier we heard that Noriko is going to marry the man she loves, and a new life begins for her. Akiko also has her choice of going on living as she pleases. While everything has ended for the old man, not all is dark.

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