End of Summer - On Brightness and Darkness
By Doron B. Cohen (Kyoto,
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.
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
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):
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:
elder, Shige, married into the Kato family from
Nagoya; she appears when Manbei first has his
heart attack, and also at the cremation.
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.
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).
had at least three children:
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.
elder daughter, Fumiko, married Hisao, who apparently
was also adopted into the family and runs the
business. They have one son, Masao.
youngest daughter, Noriko, who works at the office
of a large company, is yet to be married.
may also had a daughter, Yuriko, with his former
mistress Tsune, but the true identity of Yuriko's
father is not clear.
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
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
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.
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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