SteelCity99 - wrote on 04/28/18
In simplicity lies complexity. Every frame in Ozu's dramas is filled with striking still poetry, like showcasing a static, deeply touching and yet understated post-war transition communicated with the simplest of body cues and yet with the most complex emotions. Masterfully stroked and featuring the immortal Setsuko Hara, Ozu becomes the first master to display her astonishing acting versatility, presenting her first as a bigger-than-life young woman with an indestructible smile only to challenge preconceived notions about the characters, subtly escalating a family nest tension that faces imminent separation in the name of life's transcendence. Hence, he becomes the first notable director to ever feature her cry, something that only Naruse would deliver with basically the same heart-punching force in Sound of the Mountain (1954).
Ozu's post-war suburban world invites the viewer to stay forever. Architectonic beauty and a divine cinematography embellish this shapeshifting drama that conquers indoor and outdoor spaces, both domestic and urban. The narrative is deceptively simple, as is the auteur's trademark, making him very anti-Japanese for that matter. This construction of dramatic beauty allows for the events and conflicts out of the ordinary life to acquire a stronger impact when a disagreement or a serious, sad face appears on screen, and this effect is most astonishingly delivered by Setsuko Hara, one of the most powerful acting forces Japan has ever faced.
I have a theory that was, perhaps, excellently pulled off unintentionally. If we work under the hypothesis that the film fully embraces Noriko's perspective, the screen time that each character related to Noriko either through blood or as an acquaintance has could potentially represent the relevance that each one has in Noriko's life. It is no coincidence that the father has most of the screen time, obligatedly played by the always loyal-to-Ozu legend Chishû Ryû. Following in the ladder of relevance are, ranked, her aunt Masa, her friend Aya, the engaged Hittori and the attractive widow Miwa, who will apparently marry his father, forcing Noriko to take a stance. Under this hypothesis, even if Noriko claims to have ultimately a good impression from her future husband Satake, he remains unseen, unlike Hittori, throwing a lot of light into the subject and about the much condemned miai (arranged marriages) tradition as feudalistic back in the times of the American occupation which classified the depiction of it as feudalistic. Nevertheless, Noriko's decision must not be taken as individual, but collective with her family behind her. Hence, the heroine is ultimately forced by family tradition, indeed harming individuality, making the film a tragedy.
Dealing with themes that universally embrace love, loyalty, family, arranged marriages, selfish interests and loneliness, Late Spring depicts one of the purest father-and-daughter relationships ever put to film and is one of the greatest classic dramas to ever come out of that wonderful film country. The last scene is unforgettable, as dark as the ocean during the night.