Early Spring

"Excellent"

Early Spring Review


If you want to know who Yasujiro Ozu was and what he was all about, this is a great place to start. Early Spring is a beautifully crafted distillation of all of Ozu's themes and techniques, a textbook example of what made him Japan's cinematic king of the domestic drama. The film runs long -- 2 hours and 28 minutes -- but it never feels boring, even as it deals with the most mundane of concerns.

Shoji Sugiyama (Ryo Ikebe) lives the bleak life of Tokyo salaryman, slaving away at the Toa Fire-Brick Company in a clerical role and staring out the window with his colleague to marvel at the "340,000" white-shirted office workers they watch scurrying to their jobs. At home, Sugiyama's very patient wife Masako (Chikage Awashima) doesn't mind when her husband spends his down time on company outings, at bars with his co-workers, playing mah-jong, or visiting a sick friend. She rarely joins in the fun, choosing instead to stay home and take care of the skimpy family budget.

Disruption arrives in the form of Chiyo (Keiko Kishi), a fellow commuter who earns the nickname of "Goldfish" and whose flirtation with Sugiyama quickly blossoms into a PG-13 rated affair. Although they try to keep it on the down low, Chiyo and Sugiyama's close friendship is obvious to his co-workers, and the gossip starts to fly around the office corridors. Will Masako find out? And if she does, will she care, given the airlessness of her marriage? When Sugiyama neglects to join her on an anniversary trip to the grave of their dead son, she's far more resigned to than angered by his thoughtlessness.

Ozu's preoccupation with the small dramas of daily life is in full effect here, as is his fascination with group dynamics, Japan style. Sugiyama's friends and co-workers have no intention of minding their own business when the group is disrupted by Chiyo's intrusion. They meet to discuss strategies, and even form their own little kangaroo court, disguised as a friendly "noodle party." "Our sole joy, noodles," says one salaryman.

And as all this goes on, daily life in Tokyo just flows by, shown to us in scenes of crowded intersections, office windows, laundry on the line, and, as always in an Ozu film, trains, trains, and more trains zipping down the tracks. As usual, cramped interior scenes are shot from tatami-mat level, as if you the viewer were sitting on the floor alongside everyone else.

"Salaried workers are a dime a dozen," one of Sugiyama's friends laments. Maybe so, but Ozu has a unique talent for elevating their humble concerns to an almost epic scale.

DVD Note: Early Spring is one of five films included in Late Ozu, a Criterion Collection box set of Ozu's best final films that's worth seeking out.

Aka Soshun.

Springtime for Ozu.



Early Spring

Facts and Figures

Run time: 144 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 25th September 1974

Distributed by: New Yorker Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 8

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


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