Late Spring
(Banshun) (1949)
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * * ½

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A few years after the end of the Second World War, a widowed professor (Chishu Ryu) decides that it is time that his twenty-seven year old daughter, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), with whom he is living, should be married. Subsequently, with the help of the woman's aunt, the professor arranges a marriage for Noriko, despite her reluctance to leave her father's house.

Yasujiro Ozu's austere but frequently beautiful Late Spring tells a simple but consistently involving and genuinely moving tale. Although the director has not created a masterpiece, he has, nonetheless, made a unique, fascinating movie that is sure to touch any sensitive viewer.

Much of the film is visually restrained, but it is interspersed with numerous appealing images and is even punctuated by the occasional moment of exquisite beauty. There are, consequently, times when the movie is infused with an almost painful but wonderfully austere loveliness. The director is, for instance, able to capture the grace of a father and his daughter drinking tea together, of two men sitting side by side on a wooden porch, and even of a man taking off his coat after returning to his home. Such moments are truly memorable, utterly captivating, and make the whole of the movie worth watching.

What is more, the story the director tells is so beautifully related and so moving in its simplicity that, irrespective of its images, it is able to fascinate the viewer with its various characters and, consequently, involve him in their existences, allowing him to feel their emotions with a surprising intensity. Ozu pulls the moviegoer into a humble world which, being as homely as it is, is far more engaging than are so many of the vast but contrived imaginary landscapes presented in countless other films. Instead of focusing on grand events of terrible import, great crises, or horrible crimes, the director reminds the moviegoer of the poignancy of the most ordinary emotions. In fact, his movie is as engaging as it is because he has taken such an approach.

Despite all that Ozu has accomplished in Late Spring, he alone is not responsible for all the film's virtues. Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara both give nearly flawless, wonderfully subtle performances. Conveying their characters' emotions with the slightest of gestures or the briefest of smiles, both give these individuals an authentic sense of life. The actors are, consequently, able to communicate to the viewer a far more potent sense of the feelings of their characters than any histrionic, wailing performance ever could have.

Although much of Late Spring may not awe the viewer, it does include more than a few sequences that are so well realized they are almost certain to move him profoundly when he sees them. The movie is not quite a masterpiece, but it is a charming, often lovely, and always touching work that is certainly worth watching.

Review by Keith Allen

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