Early Summer (1951)

Early Summer Early_Summer_Poster(Bakkushû)
Directed by Yasujirô Ozu
Written by Kôgo Noda and Yasujirô Ozu
1951/Japan
Shôchiku Eiga
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

 

Mr. Ozu looked happiest when he was engaged in writing a scenario with Mr. Kogo Noda, at the latter’s cottage on the tableland of Nagano Prefecture. By the time he finished writing a script, after about four months’ effort, he had already made up every image in every shot, so that he never changed the scenario after we went on the set. The words were so polished up that he would not allow us even a single mistake. — Chisû Ryû

Yasujirô Ozu was at the height of his powers when he made the three films in which Setsuko Hara starred as a young woman named Noriko.  This is perhaps lesser known than the other two – Late Spring and Tokyo Story – but is just as good.

Three generations of the Mamiya family live in the same household.  They are grandmother and grandfather, their son Koichi (Chisu Ryô), daughter-in-law and two grandsons, and unmarried daughter Noriko (Hara).  Noriko is a modern sort of 28-year-old and helps with the expenses by working in the city as a secretary.  Koichi is a physician.

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Noriko’s boss and everyone else who knows her think it is high time for her to get married. The boss has what seems to be the ideal candidate in mind.  Noriko’s parents and brother are enthusiastic about the match but Noriko is skillful at dodging any discussion about the matter.

Then Noriko accepts a marriage offer from an unexpected quarter and the household is thrown into a mild uproar until everybody gets used to the idea.

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I love this film.  It all seems just like real life to me despite the exquisitely contrived compositions.  It takes about an hour for the marriage drama to arise.  Before that the story is more or less just a snapshot of daily life.

This is another film on Ozu’s favorite topic, which is not in fact marriage, but the dissolution of the Japanese family.  We are treated to an especially moving denouement in this one as the hoped-for marriage will mean that all the people in the household must go their separate ways.  The Criterion DVD has an excellent commentary by Ozu scholar Donald Richie.

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