Psalm 81:5-7
Psalm 51:17

Yasujirō Ozu: The End of Summer

I very much liked the two Ozu films I've seen, Late Spring and Tokyo Story, in spite of some difficulty in adjusting to the mannerisms, especially the vocal mannerisms, of a language and culture so different from mine. As I said when writing about Late Spring back in 2011, it's

a difficulty I've had with other Japanese films made prior to 1960 or so: the facial and vocal expressions are just culturally different enough for me to feel that I'm not quite sure what's going on underneath, not quite connecting as I should.

It's hard to explain, but there often seems to be a disconnect between the sounds I hear and what they seem to mean based on what the character is saying and the expression in the voice. 

I've seen Tokyo Story twice, which is at least part of the reason why, after the second viewing, I decided that I like it a little better. But I want to see Late Spring again. Ozu made several films with similar seasonal titles, and I'm working my way through those I haven't seen, which now leaves Early Summer, Early Spring, Late Autumn, and An Autumn Afternoon. That list is in chronological order: Late Spring was made in 1949, An Autumn Afternoon in 1962. 

I'm not sure why I picked End of Summer as my next one. Like the other two I've seen, it's a very low-key family drama involving partings of some sort. It seems that Ozu has produced a series of delicate and subtle variations on a modest theme. There is not much "drama" here, using the word in the colloquial half-slang sense that's developed in recent years: no shouting, no weeping, no accusing and demanding. These three films at least are centered on generational connections and their dissolution. This is not violent rebellion, as has been typical of American and European art since at least the '60s, but the quiet relinquishing of ties as time and especially the changing times push or pull families apart. It seems more than likely to me that the changing times are more important than they may seem at an outsider's glance. It's never given more than passing mention, but it seems present in things like the juxtaposition of traditional and modern dress, of street signs and advertisements in Japanese and English ("Drink Coca-Cola!"), of urban and pastoral imagery, and in the rarely-mentioned but significant awareness of the war.

As for the specific film that I sat down to write about: well, for the first half of The End of Summer I didn't like it as well as the other two. That's in great part because I wasn't sure what was going on. The family relationships are more complex, involving more people, and I had trouble keeping track of who was who and exactly how they were related. As far as I noticed, none of this was ever directly explicated. I'll admit that there was an element here of the Westerner sometimes having trouble distinguishing Asian features when they are somewhat similar: I had that problem with two of the three young women, sisters and a sister-in-law, who, to my eyes, looked rather like each other. This is not quite as ethnocentric as it sounds, as I sometimes have the same problem with Euro-American films where there are two characters of the same sex, age, and coloring. (The third young woman was played by Setsuko Haro, whose face is pretty distinctive and memorable.) 

TheEndOfSummerNoriko, Akkiko (Setsuko Hara), Fumiko (l-r). I don't have any trouble telling Noriko and Fumiko apart when they're together. 

The plot involves the misbehavior of the family patriarch (no problem recognizing him) and is mildly comic--only mildly to me, anyway--through the first two thirds of the film. But all around this man's foolish renewal of a past romance with an old flame who's grown cynical (if she was ever otherwise) there is that air of puzzled melancholy as the younger generation wonders what to do with him and with themselves.

Whatever disappointment I felt in that first hour or so was compensated for by the fact that the film is in color. The characteristic long still interior shots are just as they are in the other two works: taken from a couple of feet off the floor, looking down a hallway with people coming and going at the other end, looking from one room into another, looking through a door to outside, from ten or fifteen feet away so the visible area is very small. These views of the characters from a certain distance could have the effect of making theme seem isolated, but they don't work that way for me. Instead, by giving the interiors so much space, the effect is of people very much enclosed and protected within a receptive home. And the color makes one aware of the richness of the houses and furnishings--there's a lot of warm wood--in a way that black and white can't. And as for the exterior scenes--well, the landscapes made me want to visit Japan.

Towards the end I was very much won over. The final twenty minutes or so are as powerful as anything in the other two films, and perhaps even more beautiful. I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't seen it and might do so, so I won't say any more. I will certainly be seeing this one again. 

I had about decided to cancel my Criterion Collection subscription, as I had gone many months without using it at all. There just didn't seem to be all that much there that I wanted to see, and the app or site or whatever you call it is obsessed with...well, let's just say cultural trends which don't interest me. But recently I made an effort to search out directors like Ozu, and found enough to make the service worthwhile for another few months anyway. 

I can't find a trailer online, but YouTube seems to have several copies of the whole film. Must be some sort of copyright gap.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I really liked all of these films, but it's been several years since I watched them, and many of them are so similar that they all run together in my head, and the titles don't help.

Have you ever watched any of his older films? I think there is even a silent one.

This makes me want to get the Criterion Channel back for a bit, but I probably won't, although I would like to finish my attempt to watch all of Kurosawa's films. Maybe I will see how many I can find on YouTube.

AMDG

No, I haven't seen any but the three, but I thought some of the titles looked interesting. "Dragnet Girl" or something like that. There are at least 20 of his films on CC. I was reading something about Kurosawa's Ran the other day which made me want to see it. Don't know if it's on CC or not.

I was thinking I had seen that, but looking at the trailer, I see I have not.

AMDG

I've not yet seen this one but will have to remedy that. I've liked the previous Ozu films I've watched very much, but I don't recall having see a color film of his yet.

I love Ran -- definitely one of my top five all-time favorites. I'm sure I've seen it a half-dozen times.

Last weekend I went to see Minari in the theatre -- first trip there in a year -- and thought it was quite good. It's the recent movie about the Korean family trying to make a go of it as farmers in Arkansas. At a couple points I worried that it was about to descend into melodrama, but it never does; what drama that does occur stays honest, and this makes it believable and compassionate.

That brief description would have made me skip Minari. I would have thought "redneck bigots vs noble immigrants." In the future (now as far as I'm concerned) that sort of thing will be seen as the counterpart of the sort of melodrama that was satirized in the Dudley Doright cartoons.

You really should see at least one of Ozu's color ones. Here's a sample image:

http://www.a2pcinema.com/ozu-san/films/articles/endofsummer1.jpg

I just checked and Ran is not on the Criterion Channel. But Netflix has the dvd.

It seems to me like most of the Ozu I have seen has been in color, but maybe not. When I remember foreign films and TV, I remember them as if I had heard them in English. Maybe I colorize films in my head, although, I do remember some black and white.

AMDG

I am going to have to watch both of these. I am trying to decide whether to watch Minari at home, or go to a theater. I am going to have to go to a theater soon. I miss the experience.

AMDG

Ozu's filmography notes the point where he began to use color (1958), so you can see whether you recognize the titles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasujir%C5%8D_Ozu#Filmography

My area has been semi-open for a while but I'm not sure about theaters. They do not occupy a large space in my consciousness. But I remember going to a local shopping center a little before Christmas and parking next to the big multiplex there, and realizing with a shock that it was dark. There was something melancholy, almost creepy, about it, since it was a time of day when it would normally be open. An end-of-the-world sort of feeling.

I read a very positive review of Minari on Front Porch Republic, which is what made me want to see it. Prior to that I was only familiar with it because I saw an advertisement for the soundtrack on a music site.

It looks like I've seen one color Ozu film, Floating Weeds. I recall not liking it as much as the earlier ones, but that had to do with the plot, not the fact that it was in color. I'm going to have to check that filmography and note the ones I haven't seen so I can do some catching up.

Is Foating Weeds the one about actors?

AMDG

I'd definitely recommend End of Summer as an example of Ozu's color work, despite my reservations, just for that final sequence that I mentioned.

Yes, Floating Weeds was about actors. It was a color remake of one he had done eariy in his career. I didn't dislike it, but I liked it somewhat less than the others I'd seen.

Besides the aforementioned Floating Weeds, the Ozu films I've seen are Late Spring, Early Summer, and Tokyo Story, all B&W. I've put in a library request for The End of Summer. His final film, An Autumn Afternoon, is also in color and seems to be very highly regarded.

I started watching Late Spring a few days ago and as I suspected am liking it more than I did first time around.

We went to see Minari at the theater Sunday, and really liked it. It was the first time we had been in more than a year, too, but they have been open for quite a while. I am only aware of that because my niece works at one. We went to the 4:15 pm showing and were the only people in our theater, and, in fact, we only ever saw one other family there. This is partially because of Covid, but we almost always go to that late afternoon showing, and there usually many people there, in fact, at the last movie we went to before the quarantine we were also alone.

When I first looked the movie up, it was only showing at the theater where they show indie films, and only through last Thursday, but it was nominated for an Oscar, and now it's everywhere.

Brad Pitt is the executive producer, and you can really see the Malick influence in the film. I found it interesting that in many ways, the story was very much like the 30 episode Korean drama that I just finished watching. The acting is very good, and there is an old Pentecostal Christian in the movie that is so perfect in his role.

The story takes place during the Reagan presidency, and the parents were about the same age we were at that time. It was very nostalgic for me because so many of the things they used were the same as ours had been. The kids even had this hard plastic map of the United States with a little magnifying glass attached that our kids loved.

One thing I've noticed in almost every Korean TV show that I have watched, and I have watched nothing else for months, somebody plays this card game which is played with these small red cards, and entails gambling. Whether it is mostly drama or mostly comedy--and most of them have both--that card game shows up.

I would obviously recommend the movie. It also very nice just to go out and act like normal people. I imagine that businesses are going to pick up pretty rapidly as everyone over 16 in Mississippi, and I think I just heard, Tennessee, can get the vaccine now. They even have it at our Kroger.

AMDG

AMDG

I talked to somebody a week or so ago who had been down to Gulf Shores and came back saying "Covid is over down there." And I was at a restaurant this past Saturday where almost nobody was masked. But then we've been eating at restaurants, open with some restrictions, since last June. I don't want to go off into a tirade but I really think this thing has largely been mismanaged.

How did you get onto this Korean TV kick?

One night, I was reading and Bill came across something called Crashlanding on You. I wasn't paying any attention, but I was surprised he was watching it because he doesn't usually like foreign language stuff and it was kind of odd. About the third episode, I started paying more attention and then I was hooked. The shows usually start off funny, but get more and more serious as they go along. They are quite innocent. In most of the ones I have seen, therebis not even implied sex. And in the couple of exceptions, it is very tame, and they are dressed.

The cities are so western. It's like America writ large.

AMDG

Large?

Up here in Pa. our COVID restrictions are supposed to go into the first stage of relaxation on April 4, I believe (Easter Sunday). Not sure exactly what it all entails, but I'll pay closer attention when the time comes.

I'm hoping to get to the cinema over the weekend to see The Courier, the spy film about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Other than Minari it's really the only thing that I've wanted to go see over the past several months. A lot of the stuff that came out during the pandemic seemed to be of the big blockbuster sort that I don't care for.

Interesting commentary on the covid situation from Michael Brendan Dougherty:

https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/03/the-only-way-to-stop-another-wave-of-insane-covid-rules/

Speaking of spy films--I have a weakness for spy films and novels--I watched Funeral in Berlin a week or so ago. It's quite good if you like that sort of thing. I got the dvd from Netflix. I had put it on the list years ago but for a long time it was unavailable, in that limbo where they list it but you can't actually get it. I see it can be rented on Amazon now. My wife and I enjoyed it enough that we immediately moved its predecessor, The Ipcress File (from same novelist, Len Deighton, and also with Michael Caine), to the top of our list.

I saw or read something the other day about The Courier that looked promising.

I saw The Ipcress File years ago but have never seen Funeral in Berlin. I was going to watch that new Little Drummer Girl series on Amazon, but I let my Prime lapse and didn't want to renew it just for that. And there was another one on there with Bill Nighy that looked interesting as well. Started with a 'W', like Wallander, but not.

I didn't know about the Drummer Girl series. I might give that a shot.

Re Ipcress and Funeral: I'd forgotten how good Michael Caine was in roles like this: a somewhat disreputable or sleazy but not bad character.

That Bill Nighy series is The Worricker Trilogy. I watched the first of them, "Page Eight," several months ago. Not bad, but sort of predictable. But that's maybe mostly because I watch way too much of this stuff. :)

Thanks, Marianne. Worricker's available on DVD here (my library has it) but so far there doesn't seem to be a U.S. release for Drummer Girl. I'd forgotten that it stars a favorite actor of mine, Michael Shannon.

I'm pretty sure I've seen at least some part of the Worricker series. The name in combination with Bill Nighy's rings a pretty strong bell.

I watch way too much of this stuff, too, Marianne. It got way too easy for my wife and me to just settle into some mystery series which we know we'll enjoy at least moderately and isn't going to be terribly demanding.

The streaming business has gotten rather frustrating, with series split across multiple services. Most of Endeavour, for instance, is available on BritBox, but the most recent season only on the PBS streaming service. And Vera is split between BritBox and Acorn. Etc.

I watched The Ipcress File last night. I didn't like it nearly as much as Funeral In Berlin.

Watched The End of Summer last night. I liked it a lot, although like you Mac, perhaps a little less than the previous three I've seen. It's definitely one I would watch again, though.

I may just go ahead and buy An Autumn Afternoon on DVD. I can't imagine not liking it, and I've already got the other three previous "major" films on disc.

It’s probably a good idea to buy things you think you’d probably want to watch 20 years from now. These streaming services can withdraw titles at any moment. But then will there be DVD players in 20 years?

I don't think it will much matter. I doubt I will be around in 20 years to watch.

AMDG

Right, the "you" in that was meant to be Rob specifically, who is significantly younger than me. At the rate my eyes are going, even if I'm alive in 20 years I probably won't be watching any movies.

I turned 60 last month, so Lord willing I'll still have a few good years of viewing available to me. I'm not too worried about DVD's going the way of the dinosaur. The worse thing would be the inability to find a player. But my current one is only a few years old, so hopefully there's some life in it yet.

Blu-Ray might eventually become the only format for new releases...or maybe it already has. But the players still play dvds so that's ok.

I was about to buy the recently-issued Bach St John Passion by Suzuki & Co., but on the only site where I looked it was only in SACD. Which led me to read a little about SACD. Apparently it requires a golden ear and some expertise to hear the difference between it and CD.

What I've noticed about SACD's is that they seem to be recorded at a little bit lower overall level, and that when you turn them up they don't have the harsh high-end that regular CD's sometimes do. But that's about the only thing I've noticed, and I wouldn't pay extra for one. Thing is some classical labels are doing SACD only now, and not all CD players will play them.

Mine, for instance, won't. The web site for BIS records, which produces the St John recording, suggests that they're all or almost all SACD now, but that the disks are "hybrid" and will play on regular cd players.

https://bis.se/super-audio-cd

If you're going to get it, probably best to buy it from Amazon so that you can return it easily if it won't play for you.

I'm trying to avoid Amazon, for probably obvious reasons, unless there's no alternative. I may get it as a download. It's a lot cheaper, and BIS has a very good download store, which makes the liner notes available as a PDF. I'd certainly want the texts in this case. Though it wasn't very satisfactory in the case of the Suzuki St Matthew Passion: the pdf is just a somewhat sloppy scan of the paper notes.

Over the past few days I've found myself thinking a lot about The End of Summer and Ozu's cinematic world. I find myself wishing I could live in a world as quiet and sedate as that, realizing of course that such a thing is most likely lost forever. There's something quite calming about his films that I find very attractive -- almost like taking a mental vacation.

And yet they can still, in a very quiet way, give you an emotional gut-punch.

It's impossible for me to reconcile the beauty and serenity of the Japanese culture he portrays with the viciousness of Japanese war-making. The contradiction is especially striking with Ozu's work because the films we're talking about were done within 5 to 15 years of the end of the war.

Yes, the fact that the emotion is subdued doesn't make it of any less impact, ultimately.

And you're right about the war culture. I wonder how much of that actually percolated down to the average Japanese citizens, especially those that didn't live in the cities. I don't think I've ever seen a Japanese film that was either made or set in the WWII era other than a couple actual war films.

By the way, I did finally get to go see The Courier last night, and it's very good. Kind of an old-fashioned Cold War thriller, without much of the grittiness or cynicism of the post-60's type. The leads are excellent, and even though it's based on a true story, I'd advise against reading up on it beforehand, as it's quite suspenseful. Having only been aware of the bare bones of the story, a couple of the turns really took me by surprise.

Sounds like something I would like.

If you can't catch it in the theater I'd imagine it'll be available for streaming or on DVD before too long.

Probably so, since theaters are still fighting the covid restrictions. And I just read that AMC theaters is joining the fight to press for the Democrats' voting "reforms." So to hell with them. I'm pretty sure at least one of our local theaters is AMC.

Did not know that about AMC. Will avoid. The closest cinemas to me are a Cinemark and an independent. The latter is very "woke" in a lot of ways, but I simply ignore all that nonsense, since it has no bearing on the movies they run, which is a mix of indie/foreign films and mainstream stuff. They only have two screens, but they generally run three or four films at one time, with different showtimes for each daily. Kind of an odd way to do it, but it seems to work well for them.

There was some kind of big get-together of CEOs in the past weekend or so where they discussed plans to enforce on the nation their superior understanding of voting law. AMC was among them. Dreher may be an alarmist but there is much to be alarmed about.

Yeah, I saw that on his blog. Didn't notice that AMC was one of them.

I've just seen an ad that says that The Courier comes out tomorrow on various streaming services and in Redbox.

I'm currently half-way through the recent Little Drummer Girl and so far have found it good, but not great. Despite excellent performances by the leads it's struck me as a little slow. The friend who recommended it to me has advised that it picks up in the second half so we'll see.

I must confess that it first struck me as very strange to see Michael Shannon as a scruffy Mossad agent -- a cross between George Smiley and Columbo, with an Israeli accent -- but once I got used to it it was fine.

I didn't recognize Michael Shannon's name. I see on Wikipedia that I've seen a few (very few) things he was in but don't remember the roles.

I read the novel many years ago...trying to remember when...I think maybe not too long after it was published which would mean mid-'80s. I remember parts of it very clearly, and it was certainly a good story, but there was something slightly distasteful about it. That's always true of LeCarre's work to a degree, but somehow it struck me more in this one. There is a movie version of it which seemed to me to treat the Israeli spymaster as a more distasteful character than I imagined in reading the novel.

LeCarre was accused of anti-semitism for his portrayal of the Israelis but I didn't think that was justified.

Iirc, the movie version with Diane Keaton got mixed reviews when it came out. I've not seen it.

I watched episode 4 last night and things picked up decidedly. Hoping to catch the last two over the weekend.

Iirc, the movie is very dispensable. I don't really remember much of anything more specific than that.

No wonder you found the Israeli spymaster in the movie so distasteful, Mac. The character was played by Klaus Kinski. Evil personified. Makes it hard to believe those who made the film were truly going for even-handedness.

Yes. I vaguely recall or think I recall some reviewers complaining about that.

Watched Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon last night. Very good -- I'd agree that it's up there at the top level of his films. And nostalgic in a different way, in that it was his last movie, even though he wouldn't have known that at the time.

I guess I'll stick with my plan of watching the seasonal ones in order, but am looking forward to that one. However, Ozu is going to have to wait for at least a month or so. Twin Peaks (the original series) is available on Netflix, and I read somewhere that it's going away at the end of June, so I'm going to watch it again. Also the dvd of Ran arrived a few days ago from Netflix, and I need to work it in soon.

Will be interested in your thoughts on Ran and on your re-viewing of TP.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)