The main feeling I had taken away after any viewing of Yasijuro Ozu's movies is, I wish there was a way to bottle up his sincerity and give it to today's younger film makers. Before the weekend I had only seen Tokyo Story, Late Spring, and Good Morning. Over the weekend I viewed Early Summer and that feeling was just reinforced.
Early Spring tells the story of Noriko, a 28 year old girl who still lives with her family. She is getting to the age where her family is starting to become concerned and wants her to marry. Just when it seems that Noriko is to be set up with a man who has nearly her whole family's approval, she choses goes in an entirely different direction and choses to marry a childhood friend without first consulting her family. While the family's wishes for Noriko to be married have been met, there is also a feeling of betrayal as she has now made her decision without her family's knowledge.
In the essay that comes with the Criterion Collection release, David Bordwell talks of Ozu's ensamble casts, and compares them to some of today's films. Amores Perros and Traffic are mentioned and surely one could throw last year's best picture winner, Crash and this years best picture nominee, Babel in there as well. These films seem to go to great length to show how chance and fate interlock us all together. It could be said that another one of my favorite directors, Kieslowski, also was obsessed with this theme. But the most recent of these films seem to fall under the weight of their own self importance, politicking, and grandstanding.
Most the films I have seen of Ozu's are set in post war Japan. And in these films there is a constant theme of conflict between generations. These conflicts are not violent. They are just shifts in thinking though. In the films of Ozu however, there is no pretense whatsoever. When a member of the older generation sighs to another that they should not wish for too much, it isn't a posturing for an Oscar, or a commentary on the disparity of wealth between America and the third world. Instead, it's a reflection on the changing times in the family's life, and it's said with a thankfulness for the joy that the family has already brought. It's honesty and sincerity like this that make a family photo, or a father peeling peeling an apple alone, so much more poignant than the multilayered finales of todays films.