331 Late Spring

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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FilmSnob
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Re: 331 Late Spring

#251 Post by FilmSnob » Sat Sep 12, 2020 10:32 am

Couple months ago I watched Setsuko Hara and Kōzaburō Yoshimura's film Temptation (1948), and I'm sure Ozu used this film extensively for inspiration when he made Late Spring (1949). He must have been fascinated with the movie and Miss Hara's performance especially.

For those of you who don't know, Temptation was a film where Setsuko played a college student whose father had just died, and after a chance encounter, she goes to live with his colleague's family. The man is about 40 years old and a politician in the Japanese Diet (parliament) named Ryukichi, played by Shin Saburi. His wife, played by Haruko Sugimura, has tuberculosis and therefore has to live apart from the family, in a hospital near the sea. Setsuko's character becomes the live-in nanny for the couple's two children, a young son and teenage daughter.

As the title suggests, the plot revolves around this 40 year old married politician and 21 year old live-in nanny college student falling in love with each other. It's a beautifully textured film, and one I think must have resonated with a then 45 year old Ozu writing a script for 28 year old Setsuko Hara as the lead actress. Some comparisons between Temptation and Late Spring:

1.
There's a beautiful scene (one of the best in all of Japanese cinema) where Ryukichi takes his kids to the hospital so he can see his wife and they can see their mother. For the first time, he brings along Setsuko as well-- just as she has started living with them and being their nanny. The scene moves outside to the beach, where the children and Setsuko play jump-rope near the ocean, and the middle-aged married couple look on from the distance while having a conversation in private. Haruko Sugimura grabs her husband's leg and asks whether they will ever live together again as a family, and he rather frankly if not coldly replies that everything depends on what the doctors say. She presses her shawl close to her body and cries out that everything inside her chest is ruined. She then starts watching the children and Setsuko playing jump-rope, and slowly she starts to fixate on the young and healthy 21-year old. The camera cuts back and forth between Setsuko Hara smiling and jumping up and down in the air, and Haruko Sugimura's face watching her, slowly changing from despair to jealous rage. There can be no doubt that this scene was Ozu's inspiration for the Noh sequence in Late Spring.

2.
During a later sequence in the movie, Setsuko and Ryukichi break off a romantic encounter at a resort/inn over feelings of guilt. They rush back home without speaking a word to each other on the train, Hara's face in pained anguish the entire time. The film's ominous theme music plays over this sequence, reaching crescendo back at the home, where there are several Ozu-like pillow shots of a shoji wall, through which can be seen silhouettes of tree branches swaying violently in a storm outside. Ozu used the same visual in the vase scene in Late Spring. Obviously, Ozu's exterior environment was calm and serene, unlike Yoshimura's style, but nevertheless Ozu was certainly reinterpreting those shots while he channeled that same mood of extreme conflict within Noriko internally. I've always believed that vase was meant to represent all of the antagonistic forces at work against Noriko and her father, and in Ozu's playful visual way, he positioned it within the frame, handle pointing towards Noriko, almost like it was a person with a nose, standing before her, mocking her, looking down on her, confronting her with the inevitability of her fate.

After seeing Temptation I've moved from believing that's what Ozu was doing with the vase, to being almost certain beyond any reasonable doubt.

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#252 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:06 am

Unfortunately, Yoshimura is one of the all too many classic Japanese directors whose work is almost entirely unavailable to people who don't understand unsubbed Japanese dialogue. Not sure I've ever seen one of his films with subs (but have seen a few -- including Temptation -- without them).

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#253 Post by FilmSnob » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:13 am

I have a copy of Temptation with subtitles.

Previously I've seen The Ball at the Anjo House and I was very disappointed. Did not like that one at all. Temptation was a great movie though, perhaps marred by a few careless flaws, but overall wonderful and I can see how Ozu might have found inspiration from his colleague's work. The best scenes in that film are sublime.

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#254 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Sep 12, 2020 12:59 pm

I look at Ball at Anjo House as an interesting take on Chekhov's Cherry Orchard -- lots of similarities.

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#255 Post by FilmSnob » Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:56 pm

There's a mention of PEN Club meeting in Late Spring that I always found so unnecessarily specific. But could this be a reference to PEN International, an association that promotes freedom of expression and supports writers who are harassed, imprisoned, or even killed for their views?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PEN_International

A critique that sly Ozu managed to slip past the Occupation sensors? It might be my new favorite line in the film.

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#256 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 25, 2020 9:57 am

Not sure when the Occupation started to steadfastly oppose "too much" democracy in post-war Japan. The process had certainly started by the time Late Spring was made.

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331 Late Spring

#257 Post by movielocke » Fri Sep 25, 2020 10:44 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Not sure when the Occupation started to steadfastly oppose "too much" democracy in post-war Japan. The process had certainly started by the time Late Spring was made.
Wasn’t it after the republicans won big in the 1946 congressional election, and in 47-48 they made sure that japan labor reforms Dems had been pushing were crushed (I think there was a bloody and brutal coal strike in japan where republicans sent the occupation army in to slaughter the strikers to put a stop to unionization in Japan). They also slowed down a lot of other democratic reforms.

The one Japanese history class I had in college said that shift in policy caused the occupation to also stop their dismantling of the war machine industrial zaibatsus (like Mitsubishi etc) and put a lot of war criminal corporate executives (that republicans were familiar with from pre war) back in control of same zaibatsus. As a result, other than Sony, most of start up companies with new leadership started in 45-46, were eradicated or absorbed by the newly empowered war machine zaibatsus.

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#258 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Fri Sep 25, 2020 12:46 pm

The PEN Club was (and is) the Japanese branch of PEN International; it held its first postwar congress in 1947 and reaffiliated with the international organization in 1948. Its new president at the time was the future Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasunari. I don't know if it was obscure enough at the time for the reference to simply slip past the generally thorough Occupation censors, though.

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#259 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 25, 2020 12:56 pm

movielocke -- that's what I vaguely recalled (more or less). Too bad for Japan that we basically short-circuited real reforms (leaving the status of women almost unchanged, among other things).

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#260 Post by whaleallright » Wed Sep 30, 2020 2:52 am

Republicans: fucking things up for people all over the world since... as long as anyone here's been alive.

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Re: 331 Late Spring

#261 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Sep 30, 2020 9:45 pm

whaleallright wrote:
Wed Sep 30, 2020 2:52 am
Republicans: fucking things up for people all over the world since... as long as anyone here's been alive.
To be fair, this sort of thing was pretty bipartisan in that era.

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