Wednesday 13 May 2015

Late Spring (Banshun) review

Simplicity is perfection. Few films in cinema reach the level of being so definitive despite being so discernible. But then, few directors in cinema reach the masterclass of Ozu.

Late Spring is the first film of the 'Noriko Trilogy' that features Chishû Ryû and Setsuko Hara in the central roles. Setsuko plays Noriko, a girl, a woman of 27 in the post war Japan of 1949. She lives with her father Shukichi (Chishû) who is a professor of 56. It's a happy and content family until something changes- they come one to one with reality. "Isn't it time you got married?" asks her aunt, a genre of relatives who have an agenda of finding the 'perfect partner' for their nieces/nephews. She has found a groom for her, someone who "looks like Gary Cooper''.  Things change that day. The daughter and the father realize that their little cheerful life together has come to an end. The father seems to be taking it well but Noriko, Noriko is in tatters.  "I just want to be with you, like this". She is worried how her father would do in his life all by himself. "I have been using you for far too long", he tries to convince her. He tells her he intends to remarry. Noriko is disheartened. Maybe because she cannot help shake away the prospect of another woman taking care of her father or maybe because she considers remarriage impure. The film is about how the two find their way to an obvious conclusion.

Not much seems special about the story. What really gets the viewer enthralled is the execution. Noriko is an epitome of the thoughtful and independent single woman of the post war Japan. There is an aura of distinctive space that surrounds her. She is so graceful and gliding it almost looks like she is walking on air or even ether. She smiles even when she is sad. You can just know it because she is untouched with pretense. The father is a man who has realized the right thing that he has to do and would go about doing it even though he knows it will come at a high cost to himself. They together bring about scenes full of such serenity and such power that the viewer never believes he is watching a drama. There is a dramatic trueness in their actions. They will find a way.

Ozu has shot the film with such a static camera that it looks like the characters are fixed in a gif like space. But it's still so beautiful. The mastery of his direction lies in how he succeeds in making it immensely artistic and equally cinematic. Look at the scenes of the train journey or the bicycle ride for example.  He actually shoots 3 and 2 minutes of the two taking turns, playing joyful tracks in the background , capturing the characters engrossed in activity against the scenic beauty of their backgrounds. And the frames just glide in one after the other never creating a bit of hiatus.The result of all this is a film your mind likes and one that your heart loves.

Bandwidth verdict- I can't tell the number of reasons for you to watch this film. But for one, THIS-

Setsuko Hara as Noriko. (Source

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