Late Spring (Criterion Blu-ray)
Director - Yasujiro Ozu
Cast - Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara,
Country of Origin - Japan
Discs - 1
MSRP - $39.95
Distributor - Criterion
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4.5/5)
If Yosujiro Ozu had a recurring theme that ran through his best work it would have to be the documenting the generation gap between 2 successive generations. This would usually occur between a set of parents and there grown up children. This theme can possibly be best defined by his Noriko trilogy (Late Spring, Early Summer, Tokyo Story), 3 films which all star Setsuko Hara as a different character named Noriko, and all deal with the differences between the differences between children and their parents, and their views toward modern society.
Late Spring (1949) is the first film in this thematic trilogy, and chronicles the lives of Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) and Noriko Somiya (Setsuko Hara), a widowed Father, and his 27 year old daughter. The two on the surface appear to share a comfortable existence. He is a college professor in Tokyo who spends the days working with his assistant Hattori, and she asist him with the day to day domestic affairs.
This all changes when Noriko's Aunt Masa suggest that it is now time for her to marry. When her Father agrees they begin to try and find a respectable suitor for her, starting with Hattori. When the suggestion is made, Noriko laughs it off, as she knows that he is already seriously engaged. She no longer thinks anything of it, until the matter comes up again days later. The thought shakes Noriko, who finds herself quite happy with the current arrangement, and is willing to maintain in her current state. That is until her Father introduces her to a young widow named Ms. Miwa, whom he intends to marry in order to have someone to take care of him following Noriko's inevitable marriage and departure from his household. This revelation forces Noriko's hand, and pushes her toward marrying a suitor her family found for her.
Late Spring is an extremely powerful film. Ozu utilizes his trademark sparse visual style to allow us what amounts to a true glimpse into the life of the Somiya family at this juncture of their lives. A lot has been said over the decades about Ozu's stylistic choices, but it truly elevates his films to a whole other level when watching a film like Late Spring or Tokyo Story with the performances such as they are and the minimalist camera movements the characters feel less like characters, and more like actual people that whose lives you have stumbled upon for the moment, for better or worse.
The performances are absolutely amazing. As I stated previously, the combination of the director's style and the performances by the cast elevate the film to a whole different place. The cast of this film anchored by Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu feel less like they are playing their roles, and more like they are dwelling inside of them bringing these characters, their motivations, and emotions to actualization.
Late Spring is an absolutely fantastic family drama from a director who practically mastered that genre. A film that has a sparse minimalist style that takes that allows the viewer a glimpse into the life of the Somiya family. It is a film that has been wowing film fans, and influencing filmmakers for generations, and is one of the great landmarks of 20th Century Japanese Cinema.
The Criterion Collection has presented Yosujiro Ozu's Late Spring in an excellent restored 1:33:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer. Criterion has created a fantastic transfer of this 1949 film with excellent contrast levels, black levels are solid, and the level of detail is excellent. I will say that while this is the best Late Spring has ever looked the transfer does have issues, their are occasional white specks are scratches throughout the transfer, little splice marks and things throughout. There is some minor detail related issues, stemming from the fact that the transfer was sourced from 2 separate transfers. Otherwise, this is truly another fantastic restoration by those folks at the Criterion Collection.
The audio is of similar quality, Criterion has presented the audio with a well restored LPCM 1.0 Japanese track with Optional English Subtitles. The track has some minor distortion due to the source, but this infrequently noticable, and otherwise dialogue is clean and audible throughout the track.
Criterion has put together a nice slate of extras for their release of Late Spring, which have been ported over from their 2006 DVD release of the film. The disc kicks off with a whole other feature film (which is always a nice bang for your buck bonus) Wim Wenders' Tokyo-ga, a documentary exploring Ozu's Tokyo. We then have a commentary track by film scholar Richard Pena, and then a 20 page booklet featuring liner notes from Michael Atkinson and Donald Richie.
Criterion have reissued their excellent DVD release of Ozu's Late Spring in a fantastic Blu-ray edition. The A/V is excellent, and the extras interesting. The film itself is an absolute must-see of classic Japanese cinema. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.