Friday, March 1, 2013

385. Sanma no aji/An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Yasujiro Ozu
Written By: Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu
Main Cast: Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Teruo Yoshida
Click here to view the trailer


My short time with Yasujiro Ozu comes to a close with the watching of "An Autumn Afternoon", Ozu's final film. Let's get right to it, shall we.

The film stars Chishu Ryu (the actor who played the father in "Tokyo Story") as Mr. Hirayama, an aging widower and businessman with three children. Two of the three children live with him, Kazuo (boy) and Michiko (girl). Hirayama's friend and colleague, Mr. Kawai, urges him to marry off Michiko, reminding him that if he doesn't do it soon (she's twenty-four years old) it will be too late. Over and over again Hirayama brushes off the warnings of his friend, assuring him that Michiko will be fine. Meanwhile, Hirayama's third son, Koichi (Sada) and his wife are having financial problems and must ask Mr. Hirayama for a loan, so that they can buy a new refrigerator. Hirayama agrees almost instantly and Koichi actually asks for more than they need so that he can buy a set of golf clubs he's been eyeing. Later, the couple fight over the proper way to use the loan that Mr. Hirayama granted them and argument ensue when Koichi's wife forbids him to buy the clubs. Meanwhile, Hirayama goes about his life, meeting with friends and colleagues, both current and former. As the film goes on, we realize that Mr. Hirayama has a drinking problem (a running theme in Ozu's films), as he comes home every night tipsy, each night more tipsy than the previous. After meeting with a former teacher, whom they call "The Gourd", who is now at the end of his life, widowed and living with his daughter (who never got married because she stayed to take care of him), Hirayama realizes that Kawai is right and that he needs to find a husband for Michiko.


Sure, based on that synopsis, "An Autumn Afternoon" doesn't sound too appealing. I mean, I'll even admit that I was really grasping at straws to include details because, honestly, not a lot happens in the picture. The film relies more on subtleties, like the reactions between characters (once again Ozu explores the theme of interactions between generations) and dialogue. To my surprise, the dialogue is actually quite snappy and certain things are said which actually caught me off guard. For example, one conversation between Hirayama, Kawai and another friend, Mr. Horie, about Horie's new, young wife and whether or not Horie is taking viagra-like pills to keep up with her, was quite shocking to hear, especially for Ozu, who seemed to be making pretty traditional films. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about this film, but I will tell you that I DID like it. I like subtle films sometimes (a lot of the time actually). My complaints are few and would include my dislike for the score, which I felt was too upbeat for such a sad story. Only at the VERY end did the score actually reflect the moods and emotions of the characters and by then it was too late to make a difference.

Speaking of the ending, I did like it. My recent discontent with certain film endings has made me hesitant when "FIN" is on the horizon, but this one worked. I truly felt sorry for Mr. Hirayama, pressured into marrying off his only daughter, constantly reminded of what could happen to her if she stays with him. His tears at the end touched me. I also felt sorry for Michiko, who must've felt as though her father was trying to push her away, maybe not realizing that he only wanted the best for her. If ever there was a time to hope for a fictitious characters happy future, Mr. Hirayama and Michiko are prime candidates.

I just want to touch a bit on Yasujiro Ozu and am proud to say I enjoyed his works. I was too rough on "Floating Weeds" and too easy on "Tokyo Story", but "An Autumn Afternoon" was the cream of the crop and easily the best of the three. It was an "An Autumn Afternoon" that will get me to check out more Ozu films someday and despite the subtle nature of the story and unexciting script, I thought this was a success for Ozu, who dies only a year later.

RATING: 7/10  Can't go TOO high, just because, but still a hell of a film and I hope I can find a home for it on my TOP 20, at least in "Ten Worth Mentioning" land.


March 1, 2013  11:14pm

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