A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Equinox Flower (Yasujiro Ozu, 1958)

Equinox Flower is Ozu's first color film. Once again he lagged behind film industry trends -- the first color film in Japan was made in 1951 -- and managed to anger the Japanese film industry by using the German-made Agfa color process instead of Fuji film because he thought the reds in Agfa film were truer. American viewers may be struck by how the movie often seems to be a Japanese translation of the American family comedy: think Father of the Bride (Vincente Minnelli, 1950). It centers on Wataru Hirayama (Shin Saburi), who finds his wife and daughters scheming against him when he insists on arranging the marriage of his elder daughter, Setsuko (Ineko Arima). When a young man he has never met before, Masahiko Taniguchi (Keiji Sada), comes to his office one day to ask for Setsuko's hand, Hirayama is furious, and not only forbids the marriage but also insists that Setsuko, who has met Taniguchi at the place where she works, be confined to home. Eventually, things work out for the young couple, but not before Hirayama has learned a lesson about the way the roles of the sexes have changed in Japan. In fact, when we first see Hirayama, he is giving a speech at a wedding, indicating his preference for parental approval and noting that even though their own marriage had been arranged, he and his wife, Kiyoko (Kinuyo Tanaka), who is sitting silently beside him, made a go of it. We will soon learn that Kiyoko is not quite so submissive as she seems. The bite that underlies this quite charming comedy lies in its portrayal of the post-war Japanese male, the warrior turned salaryman, most effectively seen in an episode in which Hirayama, after reluctantly attending the wedding of Setsuko and Taniguchi, goes to a reunion of his old classmates, who sing songs about the glory of the Japanese warrior though their own lives consist of office work and golf. The screenplay by Ozu and Kogo Noda was based on a novel by Ton Satomi. The cinematographer was Yuharu Atsuta.

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