The final film from venerable Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, An Autumn Afternoon is yet another delicate miniature, another sweeping look at changing times and mores, again putting to perfect effect the director's almost magical way with style - his static, shot/reverse shots reminding of the early days of silent film yet become radically, outrageously modern when juxtaposed with DP Yuharu Atsuta's dazzling colour palette and the tale's gentle, almost comedic nature. In some ways, An Autumn Afternoon could be a wiser, quieter Eastern cousin of Vincente Minnelli's family comedies, in the way Mr. Ozu and his co-writer Kogo Noda tease melancholy and humour from the predicament their hero, widower Shuhei Hirayama (the ever-wonderful Chishu Ryu), is facing. Hirayama is thinking more and more of marrying off Michiko (Shima Iwashita), the grown-up daughter who is still living at home, taking care both of him and younger daughter Kazuo (Shinichiro Mikami), though he understands he will be alone when that happens.

     What gives the story a whole other depth are the satellite plots feeding into this central thread: the reunion with an old school teacher who never let his daughter marry and is now making ends meet in a noodle shop; the marriage of an old friend to a much younger woman; the domestic issues of his modern, consumerist older son Koichi (Keiji Sada) and his wife; Michiko's infatuation with a friend of her brother's; the shadow of the wartime past hanging over pretty much every moment of Hirayama's life. As always with Mr. Ozu, everything is perfectly balanced and poised, every element carefully positioned on a jigsaw puzzle board whose image is only revealed once the film is ending and all the pieces are together. That's when the emotional floodgates open and even what might be (wrongly) construed as a "minor Ozu" becomes yet another glorious example of life recreated flawlessly as fiction, here laced with the melancholy hindsight that this was the last of the director's films before his death in 1963. Mr. Ozu was a master of this patient construction and his wise, quiet camera was the perfect viewfinder for these tales of daily heartbreak and laughter.

Cast: Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Teruo Yoshida, Noriko Maki, Shinichiro Mikami, Noburo Nakamura, Eijiro Tono, Kuniko Miyake, Kyoko Kishida, Michiyo Tanaki, Ryuji Kita, Toyo Takahashi, Shinobu Asayi, Masao Oda, Daisuke Kato, Haruko Suimura, Tsusai Sugamaru, Yasuo Ogata
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Screenplay: Kogo Noda, Mr. Ozu
Cinematography: Yuharu Atsuta (colour)
Music: Takanobu Saito
Designers: Tatsuo Hamada, Shigeo Ogiwara
Editor: Yoshiyasu Hamamura
Producer: Shizuo Yamamouchi  (Shochiku Eiga)
Japan, 1962, 113 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 3rd 2013


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