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An Autumn Afternoon

An Autumn Afternoon, 1962

Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) is an older man who lives with his daughter, Michiko (Shima Iwa****a and son, Kazuo (Shin'ichiro Mikami). His older son, Koichi (Keiji Sada) is married and lives with his wife, Akiko (Mariko Okada). When Hirayama reunites with one of his teachers from when he was a teenager, the older man confesses his error in not marrying off his daughter, who is now middle aged. The two have a strained relationship, and Hirayama is encouraged to find Michiko a husband before it is too late.

I only just watched Ozu's Late Spring a short while ago, and the parallels between the two films are striking, as well as the ways in which they diverge. Both films center on a single man being pressured to find a husband for his daughter before she gets "too old", something that will shift the lives of both parties. But while Late Spring focused strongly on the relationship between the father and daughter, this film takes a wider view on things, taking time to show the dynamics of Koichi's married life and giving more attention to the notion that life is ever in flux.

Ozu's film are, in the best way, hang out films for me. Watching them feels like spending a holiday with my family. Nothing grand is happening, and yet it is good for your soul. At times I find myself not even reading the subtitles all that closely, but just feeling in flow with the film. The writing and acting are all incredibly naturalistic, and the way that Ozu shoots his characters--well-composed shots absent flashy angles or overly close/near distances--you feel like you are in the room with them.

I can see why many people regard this as Ozu's best. There is a kind of calm or zen that seems to radiate from the film. The characters, like most people, are only trying to do their best. Even when there is conflict, such as a low-key fight between Koichi and Akiko about him spending too much money on gold clubs, there is humor and affection behind it.

As with Late Spring, my only complaint is the way that the character of the daughter, seemingly the character on which the change in life hinges, becomes uncentered in the last act. I don't have a problem with the idea being that the focus is mostly on the father character and how his life changes with the possibility of losing part of his household. But the idea that how the daughter characters feel at the end of the film isn't worth screen time bugs me a little bit. As with Late Spring, in the end the father is
WARNING: spoilers below
applauded by an older woman for his sacrifice in giving up his daughter. But these conversations--which never involve the daughters themselves--feel a bit as if they objectify/commodify the daughters. There's something a little condescending in the idea that women in their 20s don't actually know what they want out of life.

This is a beautifully shot film that absolutely oozes good vibes and a kind of melancholy/bittersweet celebration of the transient nature of life.