I don’t know that “exciting” is ever a word that can be applied—at least not with a straight face—to the films of Yasujiro Ozu, but I suspect this could be the least exciting of his films I’ve seen so far. Not that any of them I’ve seen have been lightning fast or anything, but for probably the first time I felt the relaxed pace of his films work against him (and the wilting length doesn’t help). I haven’t watched any Ozu in ages (not since February last year indeed), and since the Late Ozu Eclipse box has been sitting there unopened for a while, I thought it was time I changed that situation… Apparently his studio, Shochiku, wanted him to make films about younger people, so he responded with this “salaryman” story that’s rather unlike his more family-themed later films. Indeed, there’s an undercurrent of bitterness, or so I felt, that’s also quite unlike the usual sense of acceptance in his films, a sense that Japan’s post-war recovery has been far from an unqualified Good Thing and resulted in a high personal cost. I get that; I don’t really get quite why the rather thin narrative material—30-something salaryman and wife’s marriage is basically on the rocks for various reasons, he complicates things by having an affair with a co-worker—had to be stretched out over nearly two and a half hours. It’s not a desperately interesting narrative and there’s something oddly unengaging about the three people it revolves around, they’re harder to care about than some of Ozu’s other characters (disappointing, too, to see Chishu Ryu shoved into a decidedly secondary role). As it goes on, though, it doesn’t exactly pick up pace as such, but I did find myself settling into it more, and it’s not actually bad or anything, I might even like it better on a rewatch… but it’s certainly far from my favourite Ozu at the moment, and I’d debate DVD Verdict’s claim that it’s a good starting point for the uninitiated.
Early Spring (1956)