Late Spring (Banshun)
1949, b/w, 108 min.
With Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura
The first and finest telling of a story Ozu was to remake with variations many times, Late Spring focuses on the dilemma faced by a young woman (Hara) who lives with her widowed father. She refuses several marriage offers, preferring to keep her father company rather than assume the duties of a housewife and mother. Determined that she will wed, he lets her think that he plans to remarry. Hailed by Donald Richie as “one of the most perfect, the most complete, and most successful studies of character ever achieved in Japanese cinema,” Late Spring was also one of Ozu’s personal favorites.
The film opens with a tea ceremony. This analogy must have been made many times before, but it's an apt opening for an Ozu film. Both involve notions of repetition, patterning, refinement. Both exist formally in the meeting point of the designed and the natural.
The breakdown (too harsh a word for it) and presentation of the interior space is breathtaking.
There's a lovely scene where the father returns home from work, and goes through his routine of getting ready for dinner, with the help of his daughter. They go in and out of rooms, walking and turning, entering and exiting. Through the sequence of cuts, we see them move with perfect ease in a modest dance of domesticity.
The biking scene with the daughter and her male friend is minor but interesting: how do you make static a sequence full of motion? Through four or five cuts, with the camera tracking with the actors at three different distances, Ozu quiets the action and brings it into his system.
Some of the jump cuts were jarring, as if missing an establishing or transition shot. It reminded me that Ozu's editing feels very fluid and fat-free once you are immersed in it, despite its disparity with the now-familiar Hollywood editing, and certain jump cuts are equally noticeable when they disrupt the flow.
The extended Noh scene is a treat.
Made 20 years after Days of Youth, this is one of the classics, and it has all the ingredients in terms of themes and forms. But I have a tough time with this film, which I had seen once before in San Francisco. The emotions are too high-pitched for me - too explicit, too forceful. When Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu face off, and she asks bitterly and repeatedly whether he plans to remarry, the directness of her emotional presentation makes me wince. It is too raw for me. When it comes to emotion in Ozu films (and maybe all films), I am biased towards restraint.
April 5, 2004 at 11:59 PM | Permalink
I am trying to write about 'Late Spring' for a class essay on 'Ricoeur and the Other'. I came upon your illuminating account. I wondered if you had any idea what the bit of Noh Play in the middle of the film, is about. I wonder if it is significant as a commentary on the story
Christopher Dare | Jan 4, 2006 6:09:20 AM
I don't know the Noh play and its content. I vaguely remember its name and story being mentioned somewhere. I would check the books on Ozu by Donald Richie or David Bordwell.
James | Jan 13, 2006 11:18:41 PM
I am writing from Mumbai, Indiai ... I am looking for the script of LATE SPRING. Could you suggest where I might be able to locate it?
Manoj Shah | Jan 31, 2006 5:58:27 AM
Sorry, I don't know where you might find the script.
If you can speak Japanese (or have access to a translator), I would look at online Japanese bookstores. Given Ozu's stature, I wouldn't be surprised if there are Japanese reprints of his scripts.
James | Feb 8, 2006 11:35:13 PM
A little late in the game, BUT:
The noh play is "Kakitsubata" ('the iris') It is the final moments of the play, and, indeed, it is significant. Noh Poetry is incredibly dense, but the translation I saw on Youtube (of all places) seemed pretty good.
note the close up on the father is during the line "as white as snow" after showing the woman during the line about the "brocade gown." Then Hara's thought during "day brakes" and THEN back to the woman on "Pale purple clouds to the East." WOW!
The woman is both Hara's threat (is her father interested in this woman?) and what Hara should become: A gracious woman in society.
The song continues speaking of the inevitable - Hara must leave behind "attachment" To become 'enlightened' the scene ends with a fade to cherry blossoms ... a sign of spring's arrival.
Greg | Aug 20, 2007 11:32:08 PM
Greg - Thank you for the info. I'm not updating this site anymore, but I hope your info will help those who might Google their way here.
James | Nov 14, 2007 4:28:26 PM