A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Late Autumn (Yasujiro Ozu, 1960)

Yoko Tsukasa, Setsuko Hara, Ryuji Kita, Shin Saburi, and Nobuo Nakamura in Late Autumn
Akiko Miwa: Setsuko Hara
Ayako Miwa: Yoko Tsukasa
Yuriko Sasaki: Mariko Okada
Soichi Mamiya: Shin Saburi
Shuzo Taguchi: Nobuo Nakamura
Seiichiro Hirayama: Ryuji Kita
Shotaru Goto: Keiji Sada
Shukichi Miwa: Chishu Ryu

Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Screenplay: Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu
Based on a novel by Ton Satomi
Cinematography: Yuharu Atsuta
Production design: Tomiji Shimizu
Film editing: Yoshiyasu Hamamura
Music: Takanobu Saito

It's possible to think of 1960 as a kind of watershed year in Japanese film, with the appearance of two such radically different films as Nagisa Oshima's The Sun's Burial and Yasujiro Ozu's Late Autumn. The contrast between the lurid chaos of Oshima's underworld and the strict geometry (of both style and morals) of Ozu's middle classes couldn't be sharper. I imagine some alien intelligence on a distant planet intercepting transmissions of both films and wondering that they could possibly come from the same world, let alone the same country (and even the same film studio, Shochiku). Ozu was of course an established master, whereas Oshima was beginning a career -- with a bang, it should be said, making three feature films that year. The razzle-dazzle of The Sun's Burial was long behind Ozu, if it was ever really in his cinematic vocabulary. But both films speak to the restless undercurrents in Japanese postwar society, Oshima's by confronting the disorder and corruption, Ozu's by slyly examining the breakup of stifling traditions in the Japanese family. Both end with solitary women, the gangster-prostitute Hanako in The Sun's Burial and the empty-nest mother Akiko in Late Autumn, confronting loneliness. But if Hanako has a counterpart in Ozu's film, it's really the feisty Yuriko, the representative of the younger generation who sorts out all the tangled threads that the meddling older generation has gotten snared in. At this point I feel the comparisons getting strained, but it's always fun to let differing films sort themselves out.

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