Late Autumn Movie Review
We begin at a temple ceremony marking the anniversary of the death of Mr. Miwa. His lovely widow Akiko (Setsuko Hara) is in attendance with her 24-year old daughter Ayako (Yôko Tsukasa). Miwa's old friends show up, and we soon learn that three of them were all once in love with Akiko, and they admire her to this day. Now that the time has come to find a good husband for Ayako, they plot among themselves to get this problem solved, with one of the men, Taguchi (Nobuo Nakamura), taking the lead.
When Taguchi's pick doesn't pan out, his buddy Mamiya (Shin Saburi) comes up with a young man named Goto (Keiji Sada), with whom he works. While Akiko seems grateful for their efforts, Ayako is having none of it. She makes it quite clear she has no intention of marrying anytime soon and is perfectly happy living with her mother. So that's the problem, the friends realize. Ayako won't abandon her lonely mother. The solution: Let's get Akiko married off too!
What follows is a round robin of crossed signals and confusion as the friends hint to Ayako that Akiko will remarry even before they suggest it to Akiko herself. Ayako is appalled that her mother would make such a choice and confronts her, but of course Akiko has no idea what her daughter is talking about. It's hard to predict whether Ayako will ever actually marry Goto and if she does whether Akiko will be able to adjust to a new life without her daughter. As is often the case in his later films, Ozu is obsessed with how traditions are fading away in post-war Japan, how families are pulling apart and reconfiguring, often at the expense of the older generation, which is losing its traditional family support systems. Pay attention to who does and doesn't wear a kimono, that ultimate symbol of Japanese tradition. It's one of Ozu's many secret codes.
And Ozu definitely has a great handle on his color palette in this, one of his first color films. Everything is color-coded to connote either optimism and youth or tradition and stagnation. Watch for brief explosions of turquoise, especially in the dress and hat of one of Akiko's friends. That's the Ozu magic: No matter how mundane his concerns, there's always so much to pay attention to. Life really isn't simple at all.
DVD Note: Late Autumn 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.
This kimono chafes. I'd kill for a velour pantsuit.