Autumn Afternoon, An (1962): Ozu’s Last Film, Another Masterpiece Masterpiece

Though Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963) had never gained the international fame of his more accessible colleague Akira Kurosawa, his quietly but sharply observed films about family life in contemporary Japan are superlative.

Ozu’s 1962 swan song, An Autumn Afternoon, a rare film in shot color, is among his strongest works, the most famous of which is “Tokyo Story” (1953).  This film is part of a trilogy: “Late Autumn” (1960), “Early Autumn” (aka “The End of Summer” and “Last of Summer’).

It stars Ozu’s great, regular actor Chishu Ryu as an aging widower and father to three children: a married son with money problems, an unmarried daughter still living at home though she’s 27, and a son struggling to make the necessary transition from late adolescence to early adulthood

The final scene, in which Ryu finally persuades his daughter to marry and leave the house, is emotionally touching.

Ozu’s sympathetic approach and meticulously staged scenes observations draw us into this seemingly foreign milieu which, in fact, in many ways deals with universal family issues.

Centering for the most part of middle class families and intergenerational relationships and conflicts, Ozu’s works verge on the conventional everyday life, which might be a reason for his lesser reputation, when compared to the more eccentric and vibrant Kurosawa.

The stunningly simple but effective approach and stylistic rigor with which Ozu controlled his framings are very much in evidence here.

Many directors have been influenced by Ozu.  Though done as a melodrama and directed in a different style, Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man Woman” bears strong thematic resemblance to “Autumn Afternoon,” centering of a widower and his four daughters. (see our review).

Running time: 115 Minutes

Cast:

Chishu Ryu

Shima Iwashita

Shinichiro Mikami

Keiji Sada