Autumn - Always a fine day
By Doron B. Cohen (Kyoto,
Japanese title of this film means "a fine
autumn day", and indeed, most of Ozu's films
take place during fine days in autumn, or hot
and clear days in summer. So much so, that someone
had complained that this trait makes Ozu's films
unrealistic; after all, there are relatively few
such lovely days each year in Japan, contrary
to the impression Ozu's films might leave on the
unaware viewer. There is the rare shower
in Ozu's films; for example, the memorable scene
of the fight between the actor and his mistress
in Story Of Floating Weeds, repeated in
Floating Weeds, which takes place in a
downpour (although the characters hardly get wet,
being sheltered under the cover of roofs on both
sides of the street; the rain serves as a kind
of barrier, curbing their violence). Tokyo
Twilight takes place in cold winter, adding
to the gloom of the melodramatic story. But these
are relatively rare examples.
directors love to film in foul weather. Kurosawa
Akira's characters often had to struggle with
the elements, drenched in rain and covered in
mud (it is said that when John Ford met Kurosawa
he said tersely: "You like rain"). But
does this make Kurosawa's films more realistic?
Ozu's realism is in the human condition, which
is often harsh, or at least sad. When life is
so difficult, at least let's have some fine weather,
Ozu seems to say.
film is a kind of remake of Late Spring,
made eleven years earlier. In the earlier film
a daughter, living with a widowed father, is talked
into agreeing to a marriage, although she likes
her life with her father just fine. In Late
Autumn the daughter lives with a widowed mother,
but the situation is the same. In both films the
daughter has to be tricked into believing her
parent wishes to remarry, in order for her to
agree to leave home and start one of her own.
In both cases the parent remains alone.
are also several differences between the two films.
In Late Spring there seems to be a focus
on the beauty of Japanese culture - a No play,
a ceramic vase, Kyoto's temples - a motif strongly
emphasized also in Ozu's next film, The Munekata
Sisters, and occasionally reappearing in later
films as well, although not with the same insistence.
The comedy is there, but is subdued. In Late
Autumn, on the other hand, the comic elements
are up front, often taking the edge off the more
serious ones. The "old boys" are almost
cruel in their search for fun, ignoring the damage
they might inflict on other people's lives. They
are checked in place by a young, sensible girl,
Yuriko (the lovely and spirited Okada Mariko),
but she too is out to have fun.
is also a difference in the ending of the two
films. The father who marries off his daughter
in Late Spring, as well as the one in An
Autumn Afternoon, Ozu's last film, although
they both insisted that she'd get married, seem
almost shattered once the wedding takes place.
The father in the earlier film looks sad and forlorn
in the last scene, sitting at home alone, peeling
an apple, while the one in the later film (both
played by Ryu Chishu) gets unpleasantly drunk
and complains loudly of his loneliness. The mother
in this film, on the other hand, although left
alone too, seems far less distressed, even smiling
a little knowing smile to herself, reminding us
perhaps of Noriko's knowing, accepting smile towards
the end of Tokyo Story (both roles played
by Hara Setsuko): that's how life is, and there
is no use in complaining about it. Yes, tomorrow
will be a sadder, lonelier day, but it might also
be another fine autumn day, one of those days
that make life less unbearable.
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