An Autumn Afternoon was the last film made by renowned Japanese director Yasujirô Ozu, who died in 1963, the year after it was released. It is one of several of his films that employed seasons in their titles, others being Late Spring (An Autumn Afternoon is an updated remake of this 1949 film), Early Summer, Early Spring, Late Autumn and The End of Summer. An Autumn Afternoon will be shown at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center of the Film Society of Lincoln Center several times, starting tonight, as part of the film series Ozu And His Afterlives which runs from today through December 12th.
Chishu Ryu again plays a kind and benevolent father, the type of role he'd performed for Ozu several times previously. Here his character is Shuhei Hirayama, a widower with a son and a daughter. The drama revolves around the conflicts that arise for both him and his daughter as they confront the need for her to marry.
|A black and white publicity still. The film itself is in color.
An Autumn Afternoon is a touching drama and a fitting final film for Ozu's illustrious career. The print being shown is a new digital restoration courtesy of Shochiku and it's beautiful, another reason to make it to one of these screenings if you can. For those who can't, look into the DVD from The Criterion Collection, or wait for Criterion to put it out on Blu-ray.
Some thoughts on visual style and composition in Ozu's films:
Ozu, considered by many to be the most Japanese of Japan's film directors, has a very distinct visual style. One element of this is the low placement of the camera in interior scenes.
Ozu's camera, which rarely moves at all, is often described as being positioned at the eye level of someone sitting on a tatami mat. I've previously seen the film, so when I attended a press screening, I payed particular attention to camera placement. In such shots the camera is actually at the level of the low tables in the home, or in the shot above, a private room in a restaurant. Thus it actually is below eye level of someone sitting on the mats; it actually looks edge-on at the table.
For most shots the camera is set square to the space being filmed. Exceptions to this in An Autumn Afternoon are some of the scenes in a bar that has stools. There the camera is set at a higher, but still lower than normal, level and at an angle to the subjects instead of square on. The shot above is also an exception to the "squared-off" position that typifies Ozu's style and composition.
Many of Ozu's compositions consist of a corridor running straight away from the camera position and cut off by a perpendicular surface. Here it's the entrance doorway to a residence, in the distance.
Even in this nominally "outdoor" evening shot, the same type of composition is evident. The narrow street in the foreground is like the interior corridor above and the buildings on the other side of the cross street terminate the perspective.
Open outdoor shots occur rarely. When they do, it's most often as a brief transitional shot, such as the one above.