Hitori musuko

Black and White . 83 minutes

Shochiku Ofuna Studio

Written By

Ozu Yasujiro ('James Maki')
Ikeda Tadao
Arata Masao


Sugimoto Shojiro

Music By

Ito Senji


Iida Choko (Nonomiya Otsune)
Himori Shinichi (Ryosuke)
Hayama Masao (Ryoichi as a child)
Tsubouchi Yoshiko (Sugiko)
Yoshikawa Mitsuko (Otaka)
Ryu Chishu (Okubo)
Naniwa Tomoko (Okubo's Wife)
Kozo Bakudan (Okubo's Son)
Tokkan Kozo (Tomibo)

Otsune is a widow raising her only son Ryosuke in rural Shinshu. One day, Ryosuke's teacher Okubo pays Otsune a visit, asking permission to take Ryosuke to Tokyo to continue his education. At first she refuses but later agrees, and sells her land to go and work in a silk factory to support him. 13 years later, she visits Ryosuke in Tokyo, and discovers that instead of the roaring success they'd both hoped for, he is a mere night school teacher, living in an outskirt slum with his wife and baby. Ryosuke borrows money to treat her, but when his neighbor's son is injured he gives them the money. Otsune tells Ryosuke she is proud of him and returns home.

Thoughts from Ozu
This is the first talkie I directed. The plot was adapted from my finished script for Tokyo is a Nice Place, which was partly filmed, then canned in order to refashion it into a talkie... By then, the set had been relocated to Ofuna, but since I was using Mohara Hideo's sound system, it was not compatible to facilities at Ofuna. As a result, we had to shoot in the deserted Kamata studio. The din of trains nearby kept us from shooting in daytime, so we worked from 12 midnight to 5am, sticking to our schedule of five shots per night. We were in high spirits. However, ingrained ways of making silents cannot be changed overnight, so glitches were inevitable. Even though I was well aware that talkies were a totally different ballgame, I couldn't help slipping back into style of silents. I was worried that after being four or five years behind others, I would never be able to catch up. However, now I realize how useful my persistence in making silents was to my future development.


he 36th film, shot from April to September of 1936. On January 15 of this year, Shochiku closed its studio in Kamata and moved to the new Ofana studio, which was opened on January 16. The contract between Shochiku and the Dobashi Sound System ended at the end of the previous year. However, while the cooperation with Dobashi continued without any problems, Ozu decided without further ado to use the Mohara system. Overt this, the Dobashi side stiffened its attitude and walked out. Through the mediation of Kido Shiro, the affair was settled. The incriminating Ozu-Mohare film was shot on stage in the Kamata studio. The stage had to be rebuilt, since it was already broken down. The stage was not soundproof either. Therefore, the shooting started late at night, when the noises in the neighborhood calmed down, and lasted only until the first train in the early morning. The screenplay was modeled after the film Tokyo is a Nice Place (Tokyo yoi toko), the shooting of which had been interrupted in the previous year, adapting it for talkie use. The change of the title occurred to distinguish it from An Inn in Tokyo and College is a Nice Place (Daigaku yoi toko, 1936). The role of professor Okubo's wife changed from Murase Sachiko to Naniwa Tomoko. This film is split into two parts by the indications "1923 in Shinshu" and "1936 in Tokyo". However, Shinshu is not treated as a characteristic attribute, but generally as the countryside, in contrast to Tokyo. The protagonist lives in a house somewhere between the old quarters shitamachi and the outskirts of town. The exact location in Tokyo is not as crucial as in Ozu's previous works. In the same way as Shinshu is just somewhere outside Tokyo. Tokyo is just Tokyo in a general way. In the same logic, the main subject of The Only Son is the metaphorical expression of a double movement, since the spatial movement from the countryside to Tokyo correlates to a social movement. This double movement can be seen as a characteristic phenomenon of the immoderate modernization.

Articles / Essays
The Only Son
by James Leahy (Senses of Cinema)

The Only Son
by Tony Rayns (Criterion)

Personal Thoughts and Comments
Ozu's first talkie feature film was made well after the development of sound and in many ways the emotions of the film are expressed like that of a silent film (which is mostly through images over dialogue). This is one of Ozu's most melodramatic films and thematically it is very definitive of his most well known family relationships (in this case mother and son). The Only Son is an incredibly moving and bittersweet film. The film does leave hope and certainly you can see that the Mother has great reason to be proud of her son. Yet in Ozu fashion the Mother and Son hold back their feelings. The mother is very proud of her son, but she is still left sad and possibly regretful only because she is concerned that her son is not happy. The Only Son is an early Ozu masterpiece and among his most emotionally involving. The Only Son captures much of the mastery of simplistic and poetic visual composition, as well as an effective use of "pillow-shots", and also a beautiful homage to the 1933 German film Lover Divine. Powerful and insightful Ozu's transition into the sound era stands as an unforgettable achievement.

Film Images

"Pillow Shots"
The final moments from The Only Son
dvd (R1)    (R3)