For this month’s WORLD CINEMA, we go to Japan with one of Yasujiro Ozu’s greatest films, Late Spring (1949). A beautiful, sweet, simple tale with some of the greatest emotional depth ever put to film, Late Spring is the first film in the Noriko trilogy.
Noriko (Setsuko Hara) is a 27-year-old single woman who lives at home with her father Shukichi (Chishu Ryu). Everybody, including her aunt Masa (Haruko Sugimura), says it’s time for her to get married and settle down, but Noriko wants to stay at home and take care of her father instead.
Not an uncommon theme for films of the era, Late Spring deals with Noriko’s plight in a way that feels fresh, genuine and compassionate. She’s a free spirit. An unapologetic young woman who values her freedom and especially the choice to be at home with her father which, to her, is the epitome of happiness. But, of course, society won’t have it. A constant struggle between an older and a younger generation, society’s norms vs one’s needs and desires and, of course, the harsh reality of the passage of time and how we’re hopeless in the face of it. Throughout the movie, we are confronted with all of these things, and in a simple and rather quiet way, which makes it even more poignant. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, Late Spring reveals itself to us slowly, calmly, letting us breathe and take our time getting to know these characters and their stories. A truly moving film and one of Japanese cinema’s greatest achievements.