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An Autumn Afternoon

(1962, Ozu)

"In the end, we spend our lives alone... all alone."

An Autumn Afternoon follows Shūhei Hirayama (Chishū Ryū), an aging widower torn between his parental duty of arranging a marriage for her daughter, Michiko (Shima Iwash!ta) and her desire to remain with him and take care of him and her younger brother. If it sounds similar to other film, that's because there are several parallelisms between this film and Ozu's own Late Spring, which I saw in December last year.

On that film, however, the focus is mostly on the character of the daughter, whereas here, Ozu decides to focus on the father. This is my third Ozu film within less than a year, and it's just another evidence of how well he can craft compelling and moving stories from seemingly mundane family occurrences, which he does with great writing and excellent performances.

Just as he has done in the other Ozu films I've seen, Ryū does a great job of transmitting the inner dilemma within Hirayama. His performances are not flashy, but there's such a calming aura in his delivery and presence, and you can see the genuine care for his children in his performance. Iwash!ta's role isn't as meatier as Setsuko Hara's were, but she does a great job with the moments she gets.

I won't deny that there is a certain element of "been there, done that" to the film, since it pretty much follows the same beats as Late Spring, but coming 13 years after that film, it's interesting to see tinges of "evolution" and "growth" in how men and women, fathers and children interact. Just like with Late Spring, I have some very minor issues with the notion of an "arranged marriage", but that's not on Ozu, but the culture itself. Still, I like how Hirayama doesn't force things on his daughter as he's setting things up ("I'm not insisting on this other man. If you don't like him, you can say so") which, again, shows some degree of growth in the country's overall culture and Ozu himself.

I'm still wondering why Ozu invested so much time into the whole "golf clubs" issue. Maybe I missed something, but I feel like he could've nipped most of that and it would've felt tighter. I also feel that this film didn't pack as much of an emotional punch as the other films of his I've seen. Maybe it's because of its similarities to Late Spring, or maybe it's because I feel it kinda lacked a more defining and climatic moment towards its last act, but I still found myself moved by it.

I just realized after watching this that Ozu never married, and that he lived all of his life with his mother, dying from cancer two years after her. This adds a bit more weight to the film, as far as being his final film but also in how it approaches the subject of loneliness, particularly as you get older. Some of the characters reiterate the point that I quoted above, but also warning not to end up "lonely and sad". Regardless of what we do, we spend our lives alone. The other part's on us.