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on December 19, 2003
Mr. Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) congratulates his secretary on her wedding and wishes another one the same domestic bliss. But when the subject of his own daughter's marriage is touched - he is in no hurry. She is still a child. One of his friends, Mr. Kawai, sets him right: Michiko is 24. He knows the right suitor, a young doctor, and offers to act as matchmaker. The evening is long (baseball, sake) and one of their buddies, Mr. Horie, brags about his young wife. No "aid" (viagra) needed; His wife buys him just vitamines... The others crack jokes behind his back: old fool, I don't want to be like him...
Michiko greets her father ("you're drunk"). This beautiful young girl is not the subjugated "little woman" but a proficient housekeeper on her way of becoming a shrew. She has no intention to wait on her little brother Kazuo. She shrugs off Mr. Kawai's warning that she may become an old maid...Hirayama's class comrades nearly exhibit Mr. Sakuma, their old math teacher as warning what can become of a man who neglects the duty to marry his daughter. Sakumas daughter, Tomoko, restrains herself and remains polite when her father's former pupils deliver the staggering old man in his miserable noodle-kitchen. Only after they left this faded and careworn woman allows herself to cry...
Koichi, Michikos elder brother,is married to Akiko who is just as self-assured as her sister in law. When her husband bosses her around she bosses him back. Koichi touched his father for 50 000 yen - for a washing machine - and golf-clubs that his wife will not allow him to keep ("golf is a luxury for a little clerk like you"). He is sulking...Hirayama asks his daughter if she does not want to marry. He feels that he has taken advantage of her. She remains obstinate, claims that she is contented with her life, does not want to "speak about it". Hirayama asks his younger son if he "has somebody". Yes, Kazuo replies, and he suspects that Michiko "has somebody" too. Michiko visits Koichi and Akiko. Her father's matchmaking is getting on her nerves, although she is not disinclined to marry. She finds one of Koichis colleagues, Mr. Miura sympathetic...With his father's approval Koichi puts out a feeler: "Would you like to marry?". Too late! Mr. Miura was, in fact, interested, but thought that Michiko was not - and now he has another sweetheart. Michiko keeps her countenance while her father and her brother break the news gently to her. She cries only in secret. But there is still hope: Mr. Kawai's candidate, the young doctor...Too late again! His union to another girl is as good as settled...April Fool! Mr. Kawai couldn't resist his little joke...
...And the marriage does take place: Michiko is a beautiful bride and Hirayama a proud father who wishes his daughter: "Be happy". He does not plan to move in with Koichi and Akiko because "young people belong together. The old should not trouble them". He will stay at home together with his younger son. He gets drunk in a bar. People ask him if he comes from a funeral ("Something like that" he replies). Kazuo awaits him at home. "You're drunk!" "Go to sleep!" he orders his old man. Mr. Hirayama is sitting on a chair and has a look at his empty house. Now he is truly alone.
Masterpiece - what hackneyed word to describe Ozu's last film. Neither did he make use of classic sources (like Kurosawa) nor did he invent the "eastern". The problems his protagonists face are everybody's problems: How to grow up and find happiness without angering your parents, how to grow old and surviving it without angering your children...Ozu is at his best when he describes the generation gap. How did other directors capture the moment when a parent has but one duty: let go. Different perhaps; Better is impossible. Ozu is as good as Wilder when mixing drama & comedy: Hirayama meets an old wartime comrade in a bar. They deplore that the younger generation is influenced by american culture. What if Japan had won the war? ( We'd be sitting in New York. Americans would wear japanes hairdos. And they would play the shamisen while chewing gum"). The talk about aphrodisiacs and contraceptives was probably too "adult" for western audiences of the time, but sometimes dissonant parts amount to a harmonious total.
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on June 29, 2002
Some have called director Yasujiro Ozu the poet of the everyday. Most of his films deal with ordinary people leading ordinary lives. But what is not so ordinary is Ozu's ability to capture the essence of human relations. His characters seem so real to us, because they are reflections of ourselves and the people we know. In Ozu's final film, Samma No Aji (which literally means "the taste of mackerel"), a widower knows his only daughter must eventually leave home and marry. We watch, as he tries to deal with his growing sense of isolation and loneliness. He becomes nostalgic for the good ol' days. He hangs out at a bar run by a woman who reminds him of his late wife. A popular World War Two song, Gunkan Machi (Warship March) pervades the film. In contrast to this, his married son and daughter-in-law represent the new Japan. They are more concerned about material things like golf clubs and new appliances. There are sad moments in this film, but funny ones as well. One of my favorite scenes takes place in the bar. The widower, who was a naval officer during the war, and a former shipmate are talking. The shipmate says if Japan had won the war, American women would now be wearing geisha-like wigs and chewing gum while playing the shamisen (a Japanese musical instrument). There is no melodrama in this movie, just an honest portrayal of family life and human relations. And it's that honesty that makes watching an Ozu film such a memorable experience.
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