***** “Early Summer”
Shot two years after his masterpiece, “Late Spring” (1949)--and, like it, a winner of the Kinema Jumpo “Best Film” poll--Yasujiro Ozu’s drama of a family in flux, and the elaborate machinations around the betrothal of their eldest daughter, is very much a variation on a theme. Once again, Setsuko Hara must be pushed out of the nest to marry. Once again Chishu Ryu does the pushing. Once again we get a bittersweet sense of loss: the marriage dubious, the family forever disrupted. Once again, Ozu’s script, co-written with constant colleague Kogo Noda, is a marvel of organic detail and deceptive naturalism. Ozu’s late style--the serene, easy flow, the smooth succession of floor-level interior shots, the quietly restrained acting, the mastery of intimate psychology and the subtle portrayal of Japanese society in transition--are all in place. Newcomers to his work, however, may be mystified; they should start with “Late Spring” or “Tokyo Story.”
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