This was Yasujiro Ozu's final film. Is it phenomenally different than other Ozu works? Is it a film that takes Ozu in a radically different direction? No. It's just the final chapter in one of the most unique filmographies in cinema history. It's like all his other films, in that it's contemplative, beautiful, moving, serene, and simple, yet, it feels new and unique. Ozu's films, if taken all together, are like a long novel, all leading up to this one, which ended up being the final chapter (even though Ozu did not intend it to be that way). Many say that a filmmaker just keeps remaking the same film all his/her life, and with Ozu that may be true. A friend of mine criticised his aesthetic because of this, but whenever I watch a film of his, I feel so alive and peaceful. Ozu's plots are often the same with minor variations, yet, I am watching a great artist paint another portrait in film, and I don't feel that Ozu is repeating himself at all. Despite the differences between the films, the films all feel unique and gentle. They are filled with a deep humanism, and they are all knowing and filled with that eternal longing.
This film has a deeper sadness that Ozu's other work. It also has some very funny comedy, and may I say, even a bit dark for an Ozu film. There is also some bitterness to the characters, a little more tart than other Ozu films, but also that deep humanism as well. There are some really moving scenes here, especially when we see the daughter in her wedding gown, and the final shot of the film (and the final shot of Ozu's career) where Chishu Ryu sits down in a darkened kitchen, alone.
The transfer of the film is a little grainy at times (probably due to the source material), but the film is still very watchable. There are 2 trailers (and they feature Ozu himself directing the film), a fascinating excerpt from a French TV show about cinema (with Michel Clement, the famous film critic), and commentary (which is your standard, film professor type boredom).
The original title of this film was The Taste of an Autumn Mackerel, which doesn't really translate well into English. The American title is An Autumn Afternoon, and it's a much better title for the film. It's a great, wonderful film, a worthy final chapter to one of the greatest, most unique directors in cinema history.