Like a child taken to a toy store, I earnestly waited for my copy of Japanese master film maker, Yasujiro Ozu's "The End of Summer". When I finally had the disc in my player, I was as attentive as an eager student.
Ozu has a very distinctive style that mostly deals with the theme of marriage and intra-generational relationships. The film is no different. It observes the extended Kohayagawa family, who run a small sake brewery in post-war Japan, but who are contemplating merging their business with a larger company. Meanwhile, the family is arranging a marriage for Noriko who's in love with a teaching assistant from Sapporo. And the widowed daughter-in-law Akiko seems content with not having a husband. In fact, she keeps ducking from a date set up by everyone. Finally, the patriarch (Manbei) takes up a mistress with whom he believes he has a daughter.
The performances are as exquisite as its photography, although I was bothered by the "pasted smile" observed in Akiko's affect. I was particularly taking notes on Ozu's use of ellipses, in which many major events are left out, leaving the frame on walls or inanimate objects. In this film, it's the scenes involving mischievous Manbei's heart attacks which were never shown on screen. In typical Ozu fashion, he elides moments that Hollywood and Pinoy films use to stir an emotional reaction from the audience, thus eschewing melodrama.
His films employ the concept of mono no aware, an awareness of the impermanence of things. Just when the siblings believe that their father has fully recovered, Manbei suffers a fatal attack. The crematorium emits the fumes, while crows litter around the river bed. I was anticipating the "tatami shots" which were particularly obvious at the interior scenes. When the camera pans on the characters' faces from the vantage point down the height of the mat, they give the illusion that the viewer is directly facing the character - thus the "pasted smiles" feel eerily "mocking" the audience.
The End of Summer's Japanese title which literally translates to "The Fall of the Kohayagawa Family" is an appropriate valedictory piece for the director who succumbed to cancer shortly after this was shown.
"Tokyo Story" is largely regarded as Ozu's best work, while "The End of Summer" is mostly regarded as inferior. I disagree, but it's just me.
Yasujiro Ozu: Tourists who visit his grave honor him by leaving alcoholic drinks by his grave. He was a known alcohol lover.