Settings and Performances in Late Autumn (Yasujiro Ozu, 1960)

English-language Ozu scholarship was established by the pioneering work of Paul Schrader (1972), Donald Richie (1974), Noël Burch (1979), David Bordwell (1976 and 1988) and Kristin Thompson (1976 and 1988). [1] However, Adam Mars-Jones is accurate when he summarises the frustrations of Ozu lovers looking for sustained interpretations of individual Ozu films: “the history of his films’ reception in the West has been a sort of tug-of-war between the Zen transcendentals, with Paul Schrader at their head, and neo-formalists like Thompson and her husband David Bordwell”. [2] Others besides Mars-Jones challenge the methods and conclusions of Schrader, Richie, Burch, Bordwell and Thompson; Kathe Geist (1983, 1989 and 1992), Robin Wood (1992), Andrew Klevan (2000), William Rothman (2006) and Patrick Colm Hogan (2010) all challenge earlier work on Ozu. [3] Nevertheless, Mars-Jones’ (2011) book-length study of Late Spring is a welcome addition to Ozu criticism, partly because he understands that “it isn’t safe to relegate anything to the background of an Ozu film”. [4] Mars-Jones’ book is an example of more recent work which places interpretations of Ozu’s films within broader cultural and industrial contexts; other examples include Catherine Russell (2003 and 2011), Abé Nornes (2007), Alastair Phillips (2003) and Woojeong Joo (2011). [5] For this essay, the writer whose work has been most helpful is Shigehiko Hasumi (1997, 1998 and 2004). [6]

Hasumi challenges Schrader, Richie, Burch, Bordwell and Thompson. He disagrees with Burch’s use of the term “pillow shot”, Richie’s use of “mono no aware” and Schrader’s claims about the transcendental. [7] He accuses Schrader of ignoring Ozu films that fail to exemplify his argument, he disputes the claims of Japanese and foreign critics who argue that Ozu is typically Japanese, and he disagrees with Bordwell and Thompson’s formalist approach. [8] One intriguing part of Hasumi’s book is his argument that Ozu is a director of stylistic excess rather than one of restraint and refinement. [9] Hasumi argues that Richie ignores Ozu’s exaggeration and artifice and, like Mars-Jones, Hasumi refuses to interpret Ozu as either a “Zen master or a neo-formalist pattern-marker”. [10] Much early commentary on Ozu focuses on the constitutive elements of photographic representation, types of shots or edits; Hasumi, however, discusses the means of dramatic representation, things such as settings and performances. Hasumi’s work has inspired my study of settings and performances in Late Autumn (Yasujiro Ozu, 1960). The film uses settings and performances to transmit information about the characters and narrative, but, as Hasumi argues, the repetition of settings and the synchronisation in performances constitute a form of excess and exaggeration. The mirroring of gestures, for example, helps create humour and draws attention to contrasting or comparable situations.

Late Autumn depicts the interactions of five families and a few other characters. The Miwa family comprises a widowed mother, Akiko (Setsuko Hara), her daughter, Ayako (Yoko Tsukasa), and the widow’s brother-in-law, Ayako’s Uncle (Chishu Ryu). Then there are the families of the three men who are college friends of Akiko’s dead husband. Taguchi (Nobuo Nakamura) is the joker of the three and the first one shown at home with his wife (Kuniko Miyake), grown-up daughter (Yuriko Tashiro) and younger son (Koji Shigaragi). Mamiya (Shin Saburi) is cleverer and more handsome than the other two, the dominant of the three friends, with a wife (Sadako Sawamaru), grown-up daughter (Miyuki Kuwano) and young son (Masahiko Shimazu). The third friend is the widower Hirayama (Ryuji Kita), who lives with his grown-up son (Shinichiro Mikami). While Taguchi and Mamiya are employees of large companies, Hirayama is a professor (of what we never learn), and the most slow-witted of the three, the clichéd out-of-touch scholar, often teased by the other two. The fifth family is that of Ayako’s friend and colleague, Yuriko (Mariko Okada), who lives above her father’s and stepmother’s restaurant. The other main characters are two young men, Goto (Keiji Sada), who works for the same company as Mamiya, and Sugiyama (Fumio Watanabe), a college friend of Goto’s, and a colleague of Ayako and Yuriko’s, who introduces Goto to Ayako.

Directed by Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Late Autumn is based on a novel by Ton Satomi, although most Ozu fans will know it as a version of the story told in Late Spring (1949). [11] However, unlike Late Spring, Late Autumn is a comedy of manners, one which exposes foibles and follies with sympathy, while addressing a contemporary issue, the role of arranged marriages in a modern society, where women work and socialise with men. The central narrative issue concerns Ayako’s marriage, which the three older men try to arrange, but its dominant theme is aging. As its title implies, Late Autumn is about time passing, old age and the anticipation of death. It spreads its autumnal themes across the depiction of the three men and Akiko; all of them are thinking about their late middle age and their grown-up children leaving home. The men also are beginning to suffer from some of the inevitable symptoms of aging: Hirayama is a widower with a weak bladder and Mamiya twice takes a pill for some unspecified condition. [12] The film ends with the separation of mother and daughter, after Ayako’s marriage, and the last scene shows the mother alone, her experience defining the mood of the conclusion.

The film intertwines large doses of humour with its serious themes, much of which works against the three meddlesome men, who, like Noriko’s Aunt (Haruko Sugimura) in Late Spring, function as matchmakers. The film exposes the men’s vanity in a comic but sympathetic way; their attitudes are reprehensible, yet the film positions them as immature rather than venal. Like grown-up schoolboys, they almost make a mess of everything, are rude about people and indulge a coarse humour, despite their well-dressed appearance. They try to arrange Ayako’s marriage, but they fail to appreciate that times have changed and that Ayako is a working woman who wants to make her own decision about marriage. Mamiya ham-fistedly introduces Goto and Ayako in his office, but the couple get together despite Mamiya’s efforts rather than because of them. The comic climax of the men’s idiocy is Yuriko telling them off like three naughty schoolboys and tricking them into eating in her family’s restaurant.

The comedy is a vital part of the way that Late Autumn undermines the older men’s authority and, by extension, reveals their matchmaking to be outmoded. One technique that helps generate the humour is the use of synchronised movements and choreographed gestures, although this technique is also used in non-comic scenes. As an example of Ozu’s choreography of gestures, Hasumi cites the synchronised walking that starts the hiking scene:

The young people’s hike in Late Autumn, where one sees a dozen young men and women forming a rank across the width of a road and walking in step through the fields while singing also lacks all naturalness. Nobody looks at the flowers that surround them, nobody looks at the line of hills in the distance: they all repeat the same gestures, like automatons. If this is an example of the required form, then the form itself lacks naturalness. This formalism, which sometimes enables comparisons of Ozu with Dreyer and Bresson, in fact approaches the exaggerated world of Fellini. [13]

Hasumi suggests that Ozu’s style is an example of expressive artifice:

Nothing is further from ideas about equilibrium and harmony than this type of artifice. This type of excessive detail has nothing to do with the restraint which Donald Richie speaks of or the refinement evoked by Paul Schrader: it is not a question of the virtue of silence, but rather its opposite. [14]

Hasumi notes that one recurrent gesture systematised in Ozu’s films is the dropping, throwing and picking up of objects, often clothes. In his article, “Ozu’s Angry Women”, he interprets examples of women “performing gestures of anger” with clothes or towels; in his book, he devotes chapter three to the use of clothes. [15] Hasumi describes the contrast between scenes when people wear formal clothes (for example, for the marriage at the end of Late Autumn) and scenes in which they wear or change into ordinary clothes, such as the men do at home. He argues that the recurrent gestures form observable patterns that are just as meaningful as the photographic strategies about which Ozu critics often write. My main examples of choreographed gestures are Taguchi at home and a gag with the pipes in the third bar scene, when the men’s synchronised gestures foreground the innocent daftness of these middle-aged fathers, whose wives know them so well, whose cheeky young sons challenge them and whose grown-up daughters parade their independence. Far from showing misogyny and patriarchy in ascendance, Ozu reveals their decline through comic exaggeration. [16]

Along with the synchronised gestures, the film repeats settings, shifting between three types; there are twelve scenes set in homes, eleven in workplaces and twelve in bars or restaurants. These repeated settings form a structure that establishes unity and enables variations. Parallels between similar scenes yield comparisons of characters and situations, such as the varying attitudes to gender relations expressed by different generations. Comments by the young people about the older generation accumulate significance as the movie progresses and many scenes extend resonances through repetition: the three rooftop scenes; the scenes of the older men in bars; or the scenes of Akiko at home, first happy with her daughter, then saddened by their argument and finally on her own. In addition, the set design and the staging of scenes add expressive and excessive dimensions. Exemplary is the first Taguchi home scene, which is structured around Mr Taguchi’s gradual, almost continuous removal of his clothes and Mrs Taguchi’s picking up of her husband’s clothes. A few things stand out.

When Mrs Taguchi greets her husband in the corridor, he removes his shoes and hands her his briefcase. He walks into the living room; she follows him. Facing opposite directions, they both bend slightly: on the left, she places his briefcase on the floor; on the right, he drops his wallet on the table. The film cuts to Mrs Taguchi: “Weren’t you with Mr Mamiya and Mr Hirayama?” In the reverse-shot, Taguchi removes his jacket as he says, “Akiko and Ayako came too”. As he speaks, he has his back to his wife. The film then cuts to Mrs Taguchi, who says “I see” and walks away. In the wide shot of the living room, Taguchi walks past his daughter’s suitcase, looking at it as he passes. The suitcase was visible in the first shot of the living room but is now more noticeable. Nudging into the space, this suitcase indicates to Taguchi that his married daughter, Yoko, has come to stay. Taguchi pauses beside the suitcase, then drops his jacket on the floor in front of him. His wife re-enters with the coat-hanger, her re-entrance synchronised with the sound of his jacket hitting the floor. He turns and asks his wife about their daughter. She answers. Taguchi then moves forward into the living room. As he strides over his discarded jacket, he pulls a large white handkerchief from his trousers, looking ahead as he moves, without considering either the handkerchief, which he drops, or the jacket, over which he steps. The size and lightness of the handkerchief allow it to flutter to the floor behind the jacket, opening out before it lands, its whiteness increasing its visibility besides Taguchi’s dark suit, the dark furniture and walls.

After walking past his wife, Taguchi stands on the right as he undoes his tie. She bends down to pick up his jacket. The film cuts to a close shot of Mrs Taguchi as she arranges the jacket on the hanger. Speaking of her daughter and son-in-law, she says: “It seems they had another argument. Problems with the mother-in-law again”. A profile shot of Taguchi precedes a cut back to Mrs Taguchi. She starts to bend in the close shot; then the film cuts back to the wide shot of the room as she reaches down to retrieve the handkerchief. As she bends down, she says: “Young people should have a place of their own”. Taguchi undoes his cuffs as his wife walks off-screen to the right. The wide shot again gives prominence to the daughter’s suitcase on the left-side of the frame and when Mrs Taguchi re-enters, she too looks at it. Referring to their daughter’s return home, he asks her: “Weren’t you like that when you were younger?” She smiles as she says that she was; then says: “In marriage, you eventually just give up”. He responds: “That’s true for both sides”. When Mrs Taguchi says, “In marriage, you eventually just give up”, the image shows her kneeling near his feet, sliding the newspaper towards his place at the table, which has been set in advance (presumably by Mrs Taguchi) in case he desires a late supper. The staging of their actions undermines Taguchi’s reply. Their conversation is then interrupted, first by their daughter, then their son: the daughter complains about her husband; the son asks his mother “Is there anything to eat?” Taguchi reprimands his son for leaving the water heater on. Stepping out of his trousers, which he drops to the floor, Taguchi walks down the corridor, draping his shirt over the banister as he passes it. Behind him, the son pretends to box with his father, delivering an imaginary knockout punch before re-entering the living room. [17]

This five-minute scene deftly illustrates family life, indicating several features of the Taguchi marriage. It reveals that Mrs Taguchi serves her husband and that her husband takes for granted his authority within the home. In this, it bears comparison with the preceding scene, in the restaurant, where the men joke about the plump waitress who serves them. The husband and wife’s interactions take place while they discuss marriage – their daughter’s foundering marriage, their own past relations, Ayako’s potential match and marriage in general. The scene hints at Mrs Taguchi’s good-humoured equanimity, as when, for instance, they discuss Akiko. It ends by suggesting that Taguchi’s teenage son is learning to expect service from his mother while dreaming of resistance to his father, his shadow-boxing standing as a comical depiction of Oedipal rebellion. However, the most prominent feature of the scene is Taguchi’s undressing and discarding of his clothes, which, continuing throughout, forms its foundation. The married couple’s movements imply the performance of a familiar ritual, the repetition of which is evoked by Mrs Taguchi’s anticipation of his every move, including her return with the coat-hanger for her husband’s jacket.

Hasumi comments on this scene:

The wife’s actions are distilled in her gestures of conscientiously picking up each item of clothing. Characteristic of Ozu is that the husband does not hand his jacket or shirt to his wife but instead just drops them at random onto the tatami. The wife bends over for each item and gracefully picks it up. None of the actresses pick up the dropped clothing with a smoother, more relaxed motion than Kuniko Miyake in Late Autumn. But it would be an absolute mistake to interpret these gestures as depicting the uncaring arrogance of the husband or the patient servility of the wife in the Japanese household. Ozu is clearly exaggerating here. At the suitable moment, he has the husband pull his handkerchief out of his pocket and drop it on the floor – an awkward action that, in Ozu, can only be performed by the actor, not the actress. [18]

From a twenty-first century British perspective, Taguchi’s continual discarding of his clothes looks like the behaviour of a man living in a patriarchal society, in which the husband’s rights and the wife’s duties are well understood. Yet Taguchi’s behaviour also resembles that of a messy teenage boy, matching his puerile sense of humour and his fantasising about the widowed Akiko. Hasumi is right; Ozu is exaggerating. This is a portrait of a man whom the film depicts as foolish. Hasumi bases his claim that Ozu is exaggerating on his response to the choreography of the performers’ co-ordinated and synchronised movements. This synchronisation foregrounds the ritualistic dimensions of the scene and exaggerates its exposé of gender relations. [19] Instead of a naturalistic depiction of family life, Ozu presents an amplified, quasi-comic, point-making version, one which contributes to the pattern of characters dropping or picking up things. The film will later contrast Mrs Taguchi’s picking up of her husband’s clothes (especially the handkerchief) with Akiko’s picking up of some wool at work. As Hasumi observes, the wife’s actions are ‘distilled’, in that the staging of the scene strengthens its presentation of issues related to marriage and gender.

The similarity of the Taguchi home scene to the Mamiya home scene also generates a comic exposure of the husbands’ fascination with Akiko. The Taguchi scene reveals that Mrs Taguchi sees through her husband and knows all about his attraction to Akiko. When Taguchi reports Mamiya’s view that Akiko is more beautiful than her daughter, Mrs Taguchi responds: “Which would you choose? Akiko, right?” She reminds him that she knows all about his multiple visits to the chemist’s where Akiko worked in her youth. He cannot remember telling her about this and when she says that he told her when he was drunk, he replies: “I used to be so honest”. In the Mamiya home scene, Mrs Mamiya, like Mrs Taguchi, reveals that she knows all about her husband’s attraction to Akiko. When Mamiya lies to his wife, saying “I like Ayako more, she’s so pure”, he repeats Taguchi’s comments to his wife. Like Taguchi, Mamiya avoids his wife’s gaze as he lies, looking at the paper and putting on his glasses. His wife sees through him: “Oh, really?” Mamiya blames his friend, as his friend blamed him: “Taguchi still prefers Akiko”. Mrs Mamiya also reminds her husband that she knows about his attraction to Akiko and his visits to the chemist’s. Humour arises from the similarity of both the men’s fantasy infidelity and their wives’ knowledge of it (the women later laugh with each other about their husbands).

The first two home scenes show wives and daughters serving husbands and fathers while the latter lie about Akiko. The third varies this pattern, showing the widower Hirayama, who is uninterested in Akiko, being mocked by his son. Unlike Taguchi, Hirayama hangs up his own jacket, though his female housekeeper offers him food. Hirayama tells his grown-up son about a possible re-marriage, but only when Hirayama reveals that the potential wife is Akiko do surprise and admiration replace scorn and incredulity. The son’s appreciation of Akiko’s charms confirms the impression given by Mamiya and Taguchi, that all men (apart from Hirayama) find her attractive. It also adds to the implication that middle-aged men think like teenage boys, the son’s excitement reinforcing the link between this young man and the older men, who, despite their age, behave like the students they once were. When Hirayama tells his son that he said no, his son is contemptuous: “That was stupid”. The son then offers another argument in favour of Hirayama’s re-marriage:

If I get married, you’ll be alone and you’ll probably want to live with us. You’ll get in the way and it’ll be tough for my wife … And you wouldn’t be happy either. So marry Mrs Miwa. It’s your big chance.

Hirayama’s son’s comment echoes Mrs Taguchi’s comment to her husband about aging parents living apart from their married children, prompted by the return of their daughter, who has argued with her live-in mother-in-law. Mrs Taguchi thinks “young people should have a place of their own” and the resemblance between her comment and Hirayama’s son’s comment is striking. On this topic, young and old agree.

While the men’s home scenes indicate the extent to which wives, daughters or housekeepers look after them, the scenes of Ayako and Akiko at home reveal an equality that both appear to enjoy. In their first home scene, Akiko tells Ayako about Goto, “the nice young man who works in Mamiya’s office”. The daughter responds: “Mother, please decline the offer. It’ll be harder to refuse once we get his picture. And don’t give him mine”. Ayako expresses her desire to stay single: “I’m fine as I am for now. If I really love someone, I’ll marry him. The longer we have together, the better”. Ayako makes clear that she is uninterested in an arranged marriage; she wants to choose her own spouse. She also clarifies that she likes living with her mother, enjoys the lifestyle shared by two working women, but would give it up if she fell in love. The scene’s last shot focuses on Akiko’s response to her daughter’s remarks. Accompanied by the slow film music, Akiko looks surprised and admiring.

The film balances the twelve scenes of the characters at home against the eleven scenes of the characters at work. The type of work and workplace carry expressive resonances, as do spaces within the workplaces: executive office (Mamiya’s), guest lounge (at Mamiya’s work), open-plan typists’ office (Ayako and Yuriko’s), corridors where people bump into each other (Goto and Ayako; Yuriko and Sugiyama) and rooftop (of Ayako, Yuriko and Sugiyama’s company). All the characters do paid work, apart from Mrs Taguchi and Mrs Mamiya, who work at home as mothers and wives. Most are office workers, though Ozu presents a generalised version of white-collar office work, with little explanation of the characters’ jobs. Unusually, Akiko teaches dressmaking at a college, an occupation that illustrates both her association with traditions (dressmaking being conventionally associated with women) and her independence (she is a teacher, with all the responsibility that such a job brings). Furthermore, Akiko appears to enjoy her work. Her salary as a teacher may be less than her daughter’s, but she has more authority in the classroom than the young women have in their office.

Aspects of the presentation highlight differences between mother and daughter’s workplaces; one of these is the contrast between the accompanying soundtracks. Throughout the scenes of Akiko at college, someone nearby practices the first 18 bars of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No.11, in A major K331, the first movement, andante grazioso. When the film cuts to Ayako at work, the Mozart sonata stops and the clickety-clack of the typewriters replaces it. The abrupt interruption is frustrating because the edit comes before the pianist finishes the last bar of the section. Ending the music in the middle of a phrase emphasises the jarring sounds in Ayako’s office. In contrast to the typewriters’ noise, the piano practice gives the scenes in Akiko’s college a tranquil quality, the Mozart sonata endowing the sequence with a continual harmonious cadence. The amateur pianist plays the sonata somewhat hesitantly, but maintains a steady tempo, giving the sequence of Akiko at work a relaxed quality, which matches the comfortable pace of her movements. The steady reassuring rhythms of the music strengthen the scene’s intimations about her confidence at work. [20]

Hasumi mentions this scene of Akiko at work when he highlights the shot of Akiko bending down to pick up some red wool from her classroom floor. She winds it up and puts it on the desk to her right. Hasumi compares Akiko’s gesture with Taguchi dropping his clothes and Mrs Taguchi picking them up:

In contrast [to her husband], the actress’ action of bending over and picking up the handkerchief is full of grace. The wife’s lightness and flexibility of motion clearly show her superiority to her husband. In fact, Ozu’s women are experts at picking up. In Late Spring, Haruki Sugimura does an amusing turn with her sharp-eyed spotting and picking up of a wallet on the grounds of a shrine. Both Kyôko Kagawa in Tokyo Story (1953) and Setsuko Hara in Late Autumn bring a refreshing rhythm to uneventful scenes by picking up something from the floor of a classroom. While Ozu seems to have experienced great pleasure at having his actresses perform this gesture, his actors were not allowed to pick things up so gracefully. [21]

Hasumi emphasises the “refreshing rhythm” that Hara gives to her gesture, noting how Ozu reveals the women’s “lightness and flexibility” to highlight their superiority to the men. However, Akiko’s gesture of bending to pick up the wool is also the action of a woman at work. The speed and gracefulness with which she gathers the wool while advising a student about their work express her competence in the classroom and security within this space, something underscored by the music. Compare, for instance, Akiko’s authority in the classroom with Ayako and Yuriko’s sudden slowing down when they see a male superior in the corridor as they run to the roof. The film makes a clear contrast between Akiko’s work, her daughter’s work and the housework done by Mrs Mamiya and Mrs Taguchi.

Instead of showing workplaces to explain the work that people do, Ozu uses the eleven workplace scenes to depict forms of social interaction; for example, Goto and Ayako meet in the former’s workplace, their first encounter comically awkward thanks to Mamiya. Ayako squirms with embarrassment as Mamiya introduces them in his office by telling Goto “This is the young lady who turned you down”. After revealing Mamiya’s clumsiness as a matchmaker, something re-emphasised when he interrupts Goto and Ayako’s evening out with Sugiyama, the film then shows Ayako and Goto interacting in the corridor, without Mamiya.

At Ayako’s work, the young people socialise on the roof at lunchtime. In the use of setting and the choregraphed performances, the three rooftop scenes are calibrated as precise variations on each other. In the first, which follows the hiking trip, Ayako and Yuriko come to the roof to wave to a passing train, which is meant to have their married friends on it. [22] The first shot shows two wooden benches, railings, other buildings, a sunny sky and two red balloons on top of aerials. Yuriko and Akiko run towards the railings. As they lean against them, their gestures are synchronised. They talk, then spot the train. Both wave and the film cuts to a long shot of the street and the train at its end. The symmetry of the framing is noticeable; on both sides of the street, red vans are parked near warehouses. When the film cuts back to Ayako and Yuriko, they wave using overtly synchronised gestures. Both women stand with their right foot back and their left hand on the railing. They complain that their friend never waved to them. Yuriko says: “If our friendship ended because one of us got married, I’d be miserable. Marriage is the worst”. Ayako agrees: “You’re right”. Their conversation is presented in a shot/reverse-shot sequence. Then, in a medium long shot, both women lean back from the railings, Yuriko leading, before leaning forward again. Moving symmetrically, they look at each other and chuckle, then walk across the roof. As the shot and scene come to an end, the sound of their synchronised footsteps is matched by the quiet recommencing of the upbeat music, which continues into the next scene.

The second rooftop scene depicts Ayako alone. Before this, the film shows her writing at her desk. Other women arrive at work, including Yuriko, who greets Ayako. The latter is angry with her friend for encouraging her mother to re-marry and she does not return the greeting. From Ayako bent over her desk, the film cuts to a shot of a road, parked cars on one side, people walking on the other. Then it shows the office workers on the roof: pairs of women and men chat; a group plays volleyball; in the background, Ayako stands alone, leaning against the railings. A medium shot frames her body and the railings; then, a profile shot shows her looking ahead, chin resting in her hand. The music is slow, thoughtful, almost sad, but this slow music is a prelude to the recommencing of the more upbeat music, which begins when the film cuts from Ayako looking over the railings to a symmetrically framed shot of the red vans, buildings and railways (identical to the earlier shot, when she and Yuriko hoped to glimpse their friends on the train). The re-introduction of the cheerful music hints that everything is going to work out for Goto and Ayako. To confirm this, the film cuts from the rooftop scene to the scene in the noodle bar, in which Ayako and Goto dine together, having an intimate conversation about his dead mother.

In the third rooftop scene, Yuriko and Sugiyama are on the roof. Sugiyama appears less often than Yuriko, but both have a role in the plot: Sugiyama re-introduces Goto and Ayako; Yuriko intervenes with Akiko and the three men (Mariko Okada is billed third, after Setsuko Hara and Yoko Tsukasa). In addition, as a potential couple, Yuriko and Sugiyama represent a more modern way of meeting people. In an earlier scene at work, when they see each other in the corridor, they say “good morning”. As they pass, Yuriko looks over her shoulder at him; they nod at each other and say “see you later”. This hint at a mutual interest is developed during their rooftop scene. Standing by the railings where Yuriko and Ayako stood earlier, with Sugiyama in Ayako’s place, they talk about Ayako and her mother being on holiday together. Yuriko says: “Days like this should be spent in the mountains, not at work”. As in the earlier roof scenes, gestures are choreographed. Sugiyama throws a shuttlecock back to his off-screen colleagues. Then Yuriko throws a volleyball back. The matching of their actions suggests their suitability for each other. The repetition of the setting encourages comparison of the three rooftop scenes, but it is the choregraphed performances which highlight recurring gestures. As well as relating to the two preceding rooftop scenes, the third scene repeats the motif of things being picked up, dropped or thrown, but with the younger Sugiyama picking something up, unlike the older men.

Another relevant feature of the roof setting is its position upstairs. Hasumi suggests that post-war Ozu films often show upstairs rooms as private female spaces, such as, for example, Noriko’s room in Late Spring. [23] . As Hasumi notes, these first-floor rooms occupied by young unmarried women have their precise counterpart in the private rooms in restaurants where the older men eat and drink. [24] Ozu’s films present both spaces in a quasi-abstract manner, cut off from the outside world. In Late Autumn, Yuriko’s room is on the first floor, above her family’s restaurant, but the rooftop is analogous to the young women’s first-floor rooms. Like them, the rooftop is a place of respite, where the young workers escape from office routines, socialise, talk of the future or just get outside, away from their desks.

Using set design and staging, the film contrasts the openness of the three scenes on the roof, where the young workers relax, with the enclosed space of Mamiya’s office. In each of the four scenes set there, the neighbouring building’s brick wall is conspicuously close and the feeling of claustrophobia pronounced. However, the last of these four scenes begins in his office, but ends in the guest lounge, where Yuriko tells the men off. This scene uses shot/reverse-shot pairs of Yukiko standing and the three men sitting before her like guilty schoolboys being reprimanded by a teacher, an ironic touch since Hirayama is a university professor, to whom she has already protested at his work. [25] The set resembles a waiting room or classroom, with chairs in rows facing forwards. Taguchi sits in one row, looking up at Yuriko, while Mamiya and Hirayama sit at a row in front, twisting awkwardly to see her. Both the removal of Mamiya from his office and the design of the guest lounge emphasise the reversal of conventional roles as Yuriko chastises the three men.

The other key type of setting is the bar or restaurant. Twelve scenes take place in bars or restaurants, including the lakeside restaurant in which Ayako and Akiko eat before the former’s marriage. As Hasumi writes: “there is not an Ozu story without a restaurant or a dining room”, though he also observes that Ozu’s main concern is to present the social experience of dining. [26] Hasumi notes how Ozu uses private dining rooms in restaurants for business executives, like the three meddlers in Late Autumn, living rooms and dining rooms at homes for families and returning workers, while reserving cheap restaurants and noodle bars for young office workers, as in the case of the noodle bar where Ayako and Goto eat noodles at a counter; “these little restaurants form an environment analogous to college”. [27]

The first of the men’s five meetings begins in the temple before the memorial service and continues in the restaurant after it. The men open by enthusing about steak and fried pork before praising pickled vegetables; “The older one gets the more one enjoys such food”, Taguchi observes, indicating that he likes traditional Japanese and western-influenced food, just as he and his friends enjoy both sake and Johnny Walker Red Label. [28] In the restaurant after the memorial service, the three men tease Ayako while fishing for compliments from her. After Akiko and Ayako leave, Taguchi says: “She really is beautiful”. Hirayama responds: “I love talking to girls of that age”. Taguchi says: “And the daughter’s not bad either”. Mamiya joins in and they talk about how beautiful Akiko is, with Taguchi saying: “If given a choice, I’d take the mother”. Mamiya and Taguchi indulge their daydreams and remember their youth, shared with Akiko’s dead husband, Miwa. This prompts Taguchi to say: “It’s true what they say about men with beautiful wives dying young”. This leads to their joking about their plump waitress (Toyo Takahashi). The film invites us to share this joke about the waitress, but it also enables us to perceive it as the sexist humour of three overgrown teenage boys.


The scene of Akiko and Ayako dining together in a restaurant expresses their mutual pleasure at spending time with each other. Both women offer to pay for dinner (both are working and can afford it), but the mother insists. The coffee bar scene indicates that Sugiyama has made good on his offer to introduce Goto and Ayako. From what Ayako tells Mamiya, she and Goto appear to like each other; Mamiya’s clumsy interruption of the young people’s evening out confirms his ineptness as a matchmaker. The golf club bar is the setting for the men’s second meeting. While drinking beer, they devise a plan for Akiko to remarry: Taguchi and Mamiya wish they had the opportunity; Hirayama is less enthusiastic. To emphasise the relationship between the three men, the scene is staged to separate Taguchi and Mamiya from Hirayama, who sits with an empty bar stool between him and Taguchi. Splitting the three men in this way means that Mamiya and Taguchi can simultaneously turn their heads to look at Hirayama or can simultaneously ignore him. In the next bar scene, Taguchi and Mamiya sit next to each other and Hirayama sits next to them when he arrives, but Hirayama is still physically separated from his friends during shot/reverse-shot alternations and the scene ends with a shot of him alone. In both scenes, the staging reinforces the tenor of the conversations; Professor Hirayama is the butt of their jokes and probably has been since they were students together.

The next bar scene, in the bar with the yellow stools, is a superb example of Ozu’s comic use of synchronised gestures. This is the men’s third meeting. In between Hirayama’s visit to Mamiya at work and this scene in the bar, Taguchi has been to see Akiko. He now tells Mamiya about his visit: “It’s utterly hopeless. She has no interest in remarrying. All she did was talk about her dead husband”. “Did you talk about Hirayama?” asks Mamiya. “How could I? She kept raving about Miwa. Even got a little weepy on me”. Taguchi adds: “You know she’d be wasted on him. She’s so beautiful. You should have seen her on the verge of tears. She peeled an apple for me with those lovely white hands”. “Did you eat it?” “Yes. It was delicious”, says Taguchi. He takes out a pipe: “And she gave me this”. Mamiya raises his eyebrows: “Why did you really go to see her?” Taguchi concludes that Hirayama hasn’t got a chance and they agree to drop the idea of matching Akiko and Hirayama, just before the latter arrives. The pair look at him as Mamiya whispers: “Here he comes”.

Mamiya and Taguchi look down. Taguchi fiddles with his pipe. Hirayama looks confused. “What’ll you have?” asks Mamiya. As if confirming Taguchi’s remark about Hirayama’s lack of discrimination, Hirayama replies: “Anything”. At this point, Mamiya picks up his pipe. With synchronised movements, Mamiya and Taguchi scratch the side of their noses with their pipe bowls. As they do this, the pair stare off into the distance, while touching Akiko’s gifts to their skin. Perhaps they think of Akiko; perhaps, remembering that the pipes belonged to her dead husband, they imagine themselves taking his place. At this point, their movements are an approximate mirroring of each other: Mamiya uses his left hand and the bowl faces down; Taguchi uses his right hand and the bowl faces up. However, they both start and stop (to look at their pipes) at the same time. They admire their pipes, tokens of their one-to-one time with Akiko, while hiding their previous discussion from Hirayama. In their exaggerated attempt at concealment they resemble two five-year-olds hiding sweets from another boy.

The comedy increases when Hirayama takes a peanut from Taguchi’s dish and Mamiya suggests to Hirayama: “Take these too”. Taguchi passes along the peanuts, a consolation prize for Hirayama, who has neither received a pipe nor had a meeting with Akiko. Then Mamiya and Taguchi scratch their noses again with their pipes; this time their synchronisation is perfect: both use their right hands while resting their left arms on the bar. As they touch their cheeks with their pipes, Hirayama eats his nuts, looking forlorn: “Did you speak to her for me?” “Yes, I did”, Taguchi lies. “How did it go?” “Well”, hesitates Taguchi, polishing his pipe on his sleeve, “you shouldn’t rush things”. Mamiya repeats these words, in a two-shot of him and Taguchi. As Mamiya speaks, he and Taguchi continue to play with their pipes in perfect synchrony. Hirayama looks disappointed and takes another peanut. From this image, the film cuts to a corridor in Mamiya’s house; off-screen, in the living room, Mrs Mamiya and Mrs Taguchi laugh at their husbands’ antics, as we surely do also.

Noting how Late Autumn “mocks male vanity”, Bordwell comments on this bar scene. He describes the group as “three ruminative stooges” and mentions the running gag of Taguchi and Mamiya ganging up on Hirayama. He also writes that the pair “acting in unison may retain its comic effects”; “the men who have gotten pipes from their dream woman mock the one who lost out by scratching their noses”. However, the overt synchronisation of Mamiya and Taguchi’s gestures with the pipes implies that the film mocks all three men more than Taguchi and Mamiya mock Hirayama, something reinforced by the soundtrack during the cut to the following scene. We hear the women’s laughter before the film reveals the source of that laughter; the effect is retrospective and dependent upon the earlier individual home scenes; as Bordwell notes, “the pairing of Taguchi’s and Mamiya’s wives, both of whom tease their husbands with the same gags, creates comic highlights”. [29]

The use of synchronisation and simultaneity for physical comedy is unsurprising. As with earlier instances in Late Autumn, the precise choreography of the performers’ movements draws attention to itself. The resulting humour affects the film’s point of view on the characters; the three men are the butt of the ironic humour, as much as Hirayama is the butt of Taguchi and Mamiya’s humour. With the accordion providing a Tati-esque quality, the music renders more comical both the choreographed performances and Taguchi’s overblown description of Akiko (“like a delicate flower battered by a rainstorm”). The running gag with the pipes climaxes in the men’s last meeting, in the restaurant after Ayako’s marriage. Hirayama complains: “I feel a bit exploited. At least you two got a pipe out of it”. Taguchi replies: “You mean this here? But you got something even better – dreams”. All the bar and restaurant scenes depict the three meddle-some middle-aged men as comic buffoons, who treat arranging marriage as a casual diversion, one which allows them to fantasise about the widowed Akiko while drinking too much whisky and sake.

Of the two scenes set in Yuriko’s family restaurant, the first, with Ayako, takes place mainly upstairs in Yuriko’s room, while the second, with the three men, takes place downstairs in the restaurant. The first comes after Ayako’s argument with her mother. Yuriko’s stepmother welcomes Ayako and calls up to Yuriko, who comes downstairs dressed in a contemporary style, with grey trousers, red socks and pink jumper. The two friends wear different clothes; in colour-coordinated contrast to her friend, Ayako wears a pale-coloured dress and a grey cardigan. In this film about generational change, it is notable that Ayako and Yukiko are presented visually as contrasting representatives of the younger generation.

In Yuriko’s room, she and Ayako discuss her mother’s potential remarriage. Yuriko’s response is not what Ayako wants to hear. She explains that her father remarried and adds: “The world isn’t as pure as you think. You’re acting like a baby”. When Ayako returns home, she continues sulking with her mother. She removes her grey cardigan and sits down on a chair. Then, having folded the cardigan, she throws it on the bed and sits with her arms folded. Hasumi describes this scene as an example of Ozu’s female characters expressing their indignation in gestures:

the opposite of the picking-up motion must thus express anger. Often, in Ozu’s works, a moment comes in which a woman suddenly throws away an object she is holding. In almost all cases, the object flung onto the floor is clothing. [30]

As Hasumi argues, Ayako’s expressive gesture is the opposite of Mrs Taguchi’s picking up of her husband’s clothes or Akiko’s picking up of the red wool.

The second scene in Yuriko’s family restaurant is that of her tricking the three men into eating there. Taguchi makes the first mistake: “You can never tell. Sometimes these dumps on the outskirts are good”. We know more than he does and we are laughing with Yuriko at him. She sticks her tongue out to indicate the joke she’s playing on these three stooges, then ups the ante: “The daughter here is really pretty. I wanted you to see her”. The scene is played as a good-humoured prank on the three men; it adds to the film’s ironic treatment of these supposed representatives of traditional male authority. Furthermore, the undermining of their authority is helped by the casting of Mariko Okada, who brings an exuberant vitality to her performance as Yuriko.

The film uses the lakeside inn and restaurant as the setting for its conclusion of the central narrative issue, Ayako’s marriage. [31] When Akiko and Ayako visit the uncle’s inn, a group of schoolgirls is also staying there. This prompts Ayako to say: “School trips were such fun, but I always hated the very last night. It was a let-down knowing we’d come to the end”. Akiko is silent. When she doesn’t reply, Ayako asks: “Is anything wrong?” Akiko says:

I’ve decided to remain a widow … Marry Mr Goto. Nothing would give me more joy than seeing you happy with someone you love … And please don’t think I lied just so you would marry. You understand, don’t you?

After the scene ends, the film cuts to the next day. The schoolgirls are posing for a photograph by the lake, the mountain visible behind them. Inside the restaurant, Akiko and Ayako are eating. Akiko asks: “Do you remember we were evacuated here during the war?” Off-screen, the schoolgirls are singing. When Akiko says “You’re beginning a new life, and so am I”, the film cuts to Ayako. She puts down her bowl of food and places her hands on her lap, looking down. Behind her, in the top left corner of the frame, a paper lantern hangs, with a gold tassel that twinkles as it twists in the breeze; the movement of the water outside reflects a shimmering light into the restaurant. The film cuts back to Akiko, who sits with her hands crossed, her wedding ring visible. To her left is her red bowl and on her right is her black-and-white striped cup. The light shimmers behind her also. She looks down, then picks up her red bowl and moves it a couple of inches to the left. Looking at her daughter, Akiko smiles: “I’ll always remember our meals here together”. The film cuts back to Ayako, just as the schoolgirls sing “Autumn leaves in every hue/Of yellow and red”. She looks up, smiles at her mother and looks to her left. The film cuts to Akiko, who looks to her right, and then to the shot of the mountain. The mountain is in the centre, the window frame visible on the right and a tasselled lantern moving in the breeze. As the schoolgirls sing “float down the stream/woven like brocade”, a white boat travels across the lake.

Hasumi highlights this moment when Akiko and Ayako look at the mountain: “This movement of simultaneous looking, without being underlined by the shot/reverse-shot process, expresses the communion of the two characters”. [32] The placement and nine-second duration of the mountain shot give it a subjective quality; the implication is that Akiko and Ayako are both looking at it while thinking about their future, just as Yuriko and Ayako watched the train from the roof. The combination of gestures, looks, lighting, objects, setting and off-screen singing make this a moving scene. The twisting gold tassel of the lantern and the shimmering reflected light in the restaurant bring the background to life, as well as indicating that the window is open and that the lake is close to the restaurant. The schoolgirls offer a point of comparison with Akiko and Ayako, their song about “autumn leaves” summarising the film’s theme before the film moves from the mountain shot to the wedding.

What makes the scenes in the lakeside inn and restaurant so poignant is the way that they dramatise the mother’s feelings. Akiko takes advantage of the confusion the three men cause as they try to arrange her daughter and Goto’s marriage. Once Akiko learns of the potential for a Hirayama proposal, she faces a dilemma about whether to let Ayako believe this story; if she does, it will lead to separation from her daughter, whom she loves and whose company she enjoys, yet it would, in the long term, be a selfless act. By keeping her answers ambiguous, Akiko releases Ayako from obligation, giving her a slight push towards independence. In the inn, Akiko tells her daughter the truth; her first husband was enough for her; she loved him and is content to live with the memory of this relationship.

Akiko’s handling of this dilemma differentiates Late Spring from Late Autumn. The later film shows a marriage taking place between two young people based on mutual attraction and love, albeit at the compressed speed of movie-romance. (Late Autumn’s ellipses suggest that the film shows only some of the events that it covers and it never clarifies whether its events take place over one month or six.) Whereas in Late Spring Somiya deceives Noriko and only reveals the truth to Aya in the bar after the wedding, in Late Autumn the parent tells the truth to the daughter; Akiko encourages rather than tricks Ayako into marriage. This contrasts with Noriko’s arranged marriage, which Late Spring shows as negative. Noriko is a sadder character than Ayako, and the earlier film is sadder than the later; as Wood writes, Late Spring “ends on a note of unqualified tragedy”. [33] Late Spring never shows the groom and, as Geist argues, Hattori is Noriko’s missed opportunity, the right man for her: “that he and Noriko miss each other because of the rigidity of Japanese marriage customs is meant to be seen as lamentable”. [34] Once Noriko’s marriage is arranged, her demeanour remains miserable.

Women received the right to vote in Japan in 1947 and there were several social changes after the war, such as increased female employment. [35] That Akiko and Ayako do paid work, unlike Mrs Taguchi and Mrs Mamiya, is relevant to the film’s depiction of women. Akiko’s work as a teacher gives her a professional status that contrasts with the domestic work performed by the two wives, the contrast enhanced, as Hasumi argues, by the matched gestures of women picking things up. Ayako is also an independent working woman, who makes her own decision about whether to marry; she rejects the arranged marriage but decides to marry the proposed groom anyway after she discovers her attraction to him. Instead of being hidden off-screen, as the groom is in Late Spring, Goto appears to be kind, nice and handsome, good husband material, with an endorsement from Mamiya’s daughter, who says she would “marry Goto in a minute”. In showing Goto as the right man for Ayako, Late Autumn engineers a successful combination of new social practices and old customs; it is an example of how, as Joo writes, Ozu’s post-war films “attempted a very sophisticated balance between modernity and tradition”. [36] Crucial to the achievement of this balance are the older men’s comic mishaps; the comedy undermines these apparent upholders of patriarchal traditions, revealing the men as incompetent and the traditions as out-dated.

Unlike Late Spring, Late Autumn does not show Ayako’s marriage to Goto as an imposition of a traditional arranged marriage. It shows an older generation half-clinging to the idea of an arranged marriage, as in traditional societies, but without thrusting their view on the younger generation. Goto and Ayako or Yuriko and Sugiyama want a relationship that is moving towards greater equality. Nothing suggests a critique of modern social practices and Western lifestyles nor that it is valid to see the world in a dichotomy of modern and traditional. Late Autumn has the plot of a romantic comedy about whether a young couple will get together and much of the humour comes from the spectacle of the three middle-aged men behaving like adolescents. The ending blends the humour of the last restaurant scene (and the men’s reflections on their blunders) with the scene of Akiko alone in the flat after Yuriko’s visit. Late Autumn integrates the separation of mother and daughter with reflections upon the loss of spouses and parents, the passing of time, and facing up to old age and death. It represents the mother’s experience of loss as her daughter leaves home and the young people’s frustrations with the meddling older generation. But its success lies in its combination of poignancy in the presentation of Akiko’s experiences, humour in the presentation of the three men and optimism about the young people’s relationships.

[1] Paul Schrader, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (New York: Da Capo, 1988; first published 1972; Donald Richie, Ozu: His Life and Films (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1974); Noël Burch, To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema (Berkeley: California University Press, 1979); Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, “Space and Narrative in the Films of Ozu”, Screen, Vol. 17 No. 2 (summer 1976), 41-73.
Kristin Thompson, Breaking the Glass Armor: Neoformalist Film Analysis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988); and David Bordwell, Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (London: BFI, 1988).
[2] Adam Mars-Jones, Noriko Smiling (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p. 34.
[3] Kathe Geist, “Yasujiro Ozu: Notes on a Retrospective”, Film Quarterly, Vol. 37 No. 1 (fall 1983), 37:1, pp. 2-9; Kathe Geist, “The Role of Marriage in the Films of Yasujiro Ozu”, East-West Film Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1 (1989), pp. 44-52; Kathe Geist, “Narrative Strategies in Ozu’s Late Films” in Arthur Nolletti, Jr. and David Desser (eds) Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1992), pp. 91-111; Robin Wood, “The ‘Noriko’ Trilogy: Three Films of Ozu with Setsuko Hara”, CineAction, issue 26/27 (winter 1992), pp. 60-81; Andrew Klevan, Disclosure of the Everyday: Undramatic Achievement in Narrative Film (Trowbridge: Flicks Books, 2000); William Rothman, “Notes on Ozu’s Cinematic Style”, Film International, issue 22, Vol 4 No. 4 (2006), pp. 35-42; and Patrick Colm Hogan, “A Different Postcolonialism: The Cultural Ethics of Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring”, Image & Narrative, Vol. 11 No. 2 (2010), pp. 18-37.
[4] Mars-Jones, Noriko, p. 29.
[5] Catherine Russell, “Three Japanese Actresses of the 1960s: Modernity, Femininity and the Performance of Everyday Life”, CineAction, issue 60 (February (2003), pp. 34-44; Catherine Russell, Classical Japanese Cinema Revisited (New York: Continuum, 2011); Abé Mark Nornes, “The Riddle of the Vase: Ozu Yasujiro’s Late Spring (1949)” in Alastair Phillips and Julian Stringer (eds), Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts (New York: Routledge 2007), pp. 78-89; Alastair Phillips, “Pictures of the Past in the Present: Modernity, Femininity and Stardom in the Postwar Films of Ozu”, Screen, Vol. 44 No. 2 (2003), pp. 154-166; and Woojeong Joo, “The Flavour of Tofu: Ozu, History and the Representation of the Everyday”, PhD thesis, (University of Warwick, 2011).
[6] Shigehiko Hasumi, “Sunny Skies” in David Desser (ed.), Ozu’s Tokyo Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, translated by Kathy Shigeta), pp. 118-130; Shigehiko Hasumi, Yasujiro Ozu. (Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1998; first published in Japanese in 1983; translated into French by Ryoji Nakamura, René de Ceccatty and Shigehiko Hasumi); and Shigehiko Hasumi, “Ozu’s Angry Women”, Rouge, issue 4, (2004), online: The Japanese version of Hasumi’s book was published in 1983 and the French version in 1998. I have read the latter version. In the introduction, Hasumi says: “It is important to indicate that the French version does not correspond word for word to the original text, because instead I wanted to do an adaptation” (1998, p. 10). Hasumi’s essay “Sunny Skies” is a translation of roughly the first half of chapter seven of his book (1998, pp. 185-193); the chapter’s subsequent ten pages (1998, pp. 193-204) are not in the translation, including his proviso: “just as it is false to claim that Ozu’s cinema is composed exclusively of fixed frames, so it is inaccurate to say absolutely that it never rains in Ozu’s films” (1998, p. 194). As an example, he cites the rainstorm in Floating Weeds (1959). Joo (2011, pp. 33-34) notes Hasumi’s criticisms of Richie and Schrader, while Mars-Jones (2011, pp. 86-88) expresses qualified admiration for Hasumi’s work. For a general assessment of Hasumi’s work, see the articles in Lola 7, November 2016.
[7] Hasumi, Ozu, p. 225, p. 188 and p.188.
[8] Ibid., p. 27 and p. 31.
[9] Ibid., p. 118.
[10] Ibid., p.26; Mars-Jones, Noriko, p.50.
[11] Late Autumn is known as a quasi-remake of Late Spring; however, Hasumi (1998, p. 88) observes that Late Spring is already a quasi-remake of There was a Father (1942). He suggests that Ozu is like Hawks, transposing a similar story to different settings.
[12] Richie notes: “There is a living pathos in the sight of an old man (in Late Autumn) running off to the bathroom in excitement over the prospect of marrying” (1974, p. 36).
[13] Hasumi, Ozu, p. 117.
[14] Ibid., p. 118. Another of Hasumi’s examples is from Early Spring (1956), in the scene when characters waiting for a train all look in the same direction at the same time (1998, pp. 116-117). Joo (2011, p. 261) agrees with Hasumi’s point about Ozu’s use of an ‘unnatural artificiality’ in certain gestures, in particular the ‘unidirectional gaze’.
[15] Hasumi, Ozu, pp. 59-82.
[16] Joo quotes Tadao Sato on comic exaggeration in Tokyo Chorus (1931): “the gags Ozu deploys in the film are ‘not a bizarre and extraordinary kind’, but the kind that ‘comes from the occurrences of everyday life, with a touch of exaggeration or formalisation’”. Tadao Sato, Kanpon Ozu Yasujiro no geijutsu (Tokyo: Asahi shinbun sha, 2000), p. 255; quoted in Joo, Flavour of Tofu, p. 109.
[17] Taguchi and Mamiya have sons who look about ten years younger than their sisters. The age gap is perhaps meant to indicate the fathers’ absence during the war. Both sons appear in one brief scene each, yet both are memorable. They are played by Masahiko Shimazu and Koji Shigaraki, who play the wonderful Hayashi brothers in Ohayo (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959). Like Taguchi’s son, Mamiya’s son brings a mischievous energy to his tiny part, a cheeky irreverence that is a refreshing challenge to his father’s authority.
[18] Hasumi, “Ozu’s Angry Women”. Hasumi also comments on this scene in his book; see Ozu, p. 65. Phillips discusses Kuniko Miyake’s performance as Fumiko in Early Summer (1951), suggesting that for audiences at the time her star persona represented the opposite to Setsuko Hara’s; whereas, Hara’s performances and persona were associated with modernity and westernisation, Miyake was associated with the “ryosai kenbo (good wife, wise mother)”. See Phillips, “Pictures of the Past”, p. 160 & p. 161.
[19] Joo, “Flavour of Tofu”, pp. 235-6, says of a scene in Late Spring: “Ozu designs the timing and direction of Noriko’s (and her father Somiya’s) movement so deliberately that it almost looks like a choreographed dance”.
[20] When describing the tone of Ozu’s Early Summer, Wood finds an analogy with Mitsuko Uchida’s description of Mozart: “You are never sure if you’re in the shadow or in the sunshine. You are never in direct sunshine”. Wood, “The ‘Noriko’ Trilogy”, p. 74. Praising the tempo of Ozu’s films, Richie (Ozu, p.177) compares Ozu with Bruckner and Mahler. He also writes: “I once told someone that Ozu’s ideal music was someone next door practicing Mozart, and only much later became aware that such a ‘typical’ scene in fact occurs – in Late Autumn”. See Richie, Ozu, p. 183.
[21] Hasumi, “Ozu’s Angry Women”.
[22] Geist writes: “Ozu’s films are filled with other allusions to passing time (clocks), ephemerality (smoke and steam), and simply passage from one place to another and by extension from one phase of life to another (bridges, trains, corridors, and alleyways) … Ozu often connects trains, as symbols of passage, to marriage elsewhere as well. In Late Autumn, two girlfriends wave from the rooftop of their office building to a train carrying a third friend away on her honeymoon”, Geist, “The Role of Marriage”, p. 44.
[23] Hasumi, Ozu, p.85. Klevan also discusses Noriko’s bedroom in Late Spring. See Klevan, Disclosure, pp. 145-6.
[24] Hasumi, Ozu, p. 97.
[25] In “Ozu’s Angry Women”, Hasumi notes of this scene that “Mariko Okada speaks like a female prosecutor giving closing arguments before men as old as her father”.
[26] Hasumi, Ozu, pp. 32 & 42.
[27] Ibid., p.36.
[28] Hasumi, Ibid., p. 33, describes this scene and lists the food which Taguchi recalls.
[29] Bordwell, Ozu, pp. 360, 362, 85 & 361.
[30] Hasumi, “Ozu’s Angry Women”.
[31] Richie describes the shots and reproduces the dialogue of the inn sequence in Richie, “The Inn Sequence from Ozu’s Late Autumn” in Arthur Nolletti, Jr. and David Desser (eds), Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992), pp. 112-125.
[32] Hasumi, Ozu, p. 156.
[33] Wood, “The ‘Noriko’ Trilogy’, p. 73. In “The Role of Marriage”, p. 47, Geist notes that amongst Ozu’s post-war films only in Late Spring and An Autumn Afternoon do the heroines not choose their own husbands.
[34] Geist, “Narrative Strategies”, pp. 101-2.
[35] Joo, “Flavour of Tofu”, pp. 186-7, discusses the legal and the social changes that took place in post-war Japan, including those relating to marriage.
[36] Ibid., p.27.

About the Author

Jacob Leigh

About the Author

Jacob Leigh

Dr Jacob Leigh is a Lecturer in Film Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of The Cinema of Eric Rohmer and The Cinema of Ken Loach. He is currently researching a book on Claude Chabrol's late films.View all posts by Jacob Leigh →