“Late Spring” – Chris Luedtke

27-year-old Noriko (Setsuko Hara) has a problem: everyone wants her to get married, from her friends to her family and widowed father Somiya (Chishu Ryu). Noriko just doesn’t believe that it is time for her to get married and would much rather spend her life taking care of her father. However, the pressure begins to build, and Noriko’s father hatches a scheme to get his daughter hitched.

Those familiar with Yasujiro Ozu’s works will find this to be one of his best (arguably the best). Working more of his magic on family turmoil, Ozu crafts yet another all-too-real family. Characters are easily recognizable by their unique qualities and strong individualistic motives. Yes, Noriko is a recycled character, but keep in mind that she’s younger here than she is in Early Summer; her personality traits are almost identical. I did begin to wonder if her facial expressions ranged beyond that of super smiley. Those who have seen Early Summer will remember that the Noriko in there was a character that smiled…a lot. Here is no exception, and for the longest time I wondered if Noriko could express bitterness. Thankfully, I got my answer halfway in.

Unlike Early Summer, there is a bigger fixation on the problem at hand when concerning plot. This is without a doubt the most refreshing and enjoyable aspect of the film. Those who saw Early Summer will remember the asinine, 90-minute set up. The title once again reflects the main character (Noriko) and her status in life as far as a woman is concerned in 1949. This is addressed almost immediately and, without further adieu, dives right into the story. The beginning does drag slightly but quickly builds from there to a melee onslaught against Noriko’s wish to stay single. The character’s clash is what keeps the film alive and moving.

The camera work in Late Spring is also very similar to that of Early Summer. Simplicity dominates a lot of the film but tends to take some interesting shots midway into the film. It is almost like the viewer isn’t invited into certain conversations. Occasionally, I felt I like I was eavesdropping on conversations. The most private of family exchanges is generally shot from a corner and often gave me a displaced feeling which engulfed me even more.

There’s something larger at work in Ozu’s Late Spring; something more than just the desires of a daughter and the wishes of a father. Rather, Late Spring manages to comment on how difficult it is to accept changes in life. The comfort level of characters in their current situations are like still waters. Characters are content with where they are, but still waters don’t travel. In order for any character, any person to go anywhere in life requires the acceptance of change, and Late Spring manages to display how difficult that can be sometimes.

Late Spring is definitely what I’d call engaging. However, those who are looking for something with adrenaline-like pacing best look somewhere else. Those looking for a classic piece of beautiful cinema with vibrant characters should definitely look this one up. No one can quite do a clashing family piece like Yasujiro Ozu.

Rating: ★★★½

-Chris Luedtke

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