14 March 2018

AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON and A HEN IN THE WIND: A DOUBLE BILL OF YASUJIRO OZU FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.




AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON and A HEN IN THE WIND: A DOUBLE BILL OF YASUJIRO OZU FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON. (1962) DIRECTED BY YASUJIRO OZU. STARRING CHISHU RYU AND SHIMA IWASHITA.

A HEN IN THE WIND. (1948) DIRECTED BY YASUJIRO OZU. STARRING CHISHU RYU, KINUYO TANAKA AND SHUJI SANO.

I've been watching Yasujiro Ozu's films for a while now and he definitely deserves his title as 'the king of gentle family dramas,' or 'the poet of family life' as he's also called. He addresses the themes of widowhood, growing old, familial duties and responsibilities and love, romance, marriage and break-ups in a delicious blend of drama and visual beauty.

Even when he's filming the grimmest of modern-day installations, such as an electricity pole or water-tower, he imbues them with a dignity and beauty that you possibly wouldn't otherwise notice in them.

He's great at the drama element of his films as well. Watching one of them is like sitting down and having a good gossipy chat with an old friend, complete with cups of tea and nice choccy biccies. 

And of course, being a writer, I adore a good gossip. I get most of my ideas from overheard conversations and sticking my nose into what I call OPB. Other People's Business, lol. Don't start being cautious around me now though. Of course I wouldn't dream of sticking my beak into your business...!

AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON was Ozu's last film. Filmed in colour, it sees Chishu Ryu, one of Ozu's stable of preferred actors to work with, playing a similar role to one he's played before under Ozu. He's a middle-aged widower with a married son, an unmarried son who's got his eye on a bus conductress ('She's small and curvy and cute...!) and an unmarried daughter.

Once more for Chishu Ryu's character, it's the unmarried daughter Michiko who's giving him cause for concern. Lads will always be okay, they can take care of themselves, but if the daughter isn't hitched and pushing prams by a certain age, the Japanese parent of this era tends to worry.

As in LATE SPRING, the daughter doesn't particularly want to get married as she's nice and comfortable at home looking after her father and brother. Equally, Dad doesn't particularly want the daughter to go off and leave him to do his own washing, cooking and cleaning but he's a decent sort of cove. Deep down, he knows it's what's genuinely best for her. A woman needs her own home and family to fuss over.

He becomes even more motivated to get Michiko married off when he visits the home of an old school-teacher after a school reunion and sees the daughter of the house. Having missed out on her chance to get married, she's grown into a terribly unhappy, unfulfilled and bitter old maid. Dad doesn't want Michiko to end up like this.

Dad himself is clearly ripe for re-marriage. Instead of mooning over the barmaid who allegedly resembles his deceased wife, why doesn't he marry the desperately lonely school-teacher's daughter? She'd treat him like a king and a saint combined for taking her off the shelf. She'd be his slave for life but, no, men are stupid. Just like I always secretly suspected, lol.

A HEN IN THE WIND explores the theme of war and how shit everything is for the people who have to live in its wake. It also features rape and domestic abuse, two things I never expected to see in a gentle Yasujiro Ozu film where the protagonists never even raise their voices to each other, never mind anything else.

It's an absolutely tragic story. While waiting for her soldier hubby to be repatriated after World War Two, a young mother commits one act of prostitution to pay for hospital bills for her little son, who comes down with a near-fatal bout of colitis or stomach trouble.

The woman, Tokiko, does not make enough money as a dressmaker in post-war Japan to cover the bills herself. She does the unthinkable because she doesn't want her beloved child to die. It's as simple as that. Fair play to her, I say. What else was she meant to do? Let the child die?

When her husband Shuichi finally returns from the war, she tells him what happened. She doesn't want there to be any secrets between them. She desperately hopes he'll understand the awful predicament she was in. Bad mistake.

Instead of saying to her with heartfelt gratitude: 'Thank you, dear wife, for doing what you had to do to save our only child from the jaws of death,' he flips out and subjects her to a harrowing rape and beating only inches from where their baby son sleeps.

Furious with his shitty life and completely unable to comprehend his wife's behaviour (I told you men were stupid, didn't I?), Shuichi goes to the brothel where the single act of prostitution took place. 

There, he meets a beautiful young woman who's forced to prostitute herself in order to feed her family. After talking to her and hearing her sad story of poverty and necessity, Shuichi feels sympathy for her and even offers to help her to find a proper job in the place where he now works.

He then returns home, but the feelings of understanding, enlightenment, compassion and forgiveness he experiences while talking to the young prostitute have all fizzled out by the time he reaches there. What transpires between husband and wife in the last fifteen minutes of the film is as uncomfortable to watch as anything you'll see in modern cinema.

Chishu Ryu is here once more but, this time, he's not playing a middle-aged widowed Dad who's trying to marry off a daughter who's reluctant to be married off. He plays a work colleague of Shuichi's, in whom Shuichi confides the terrible story of his wife's 'infidelity.' The Chishu Ryu character, Mr. Satake, tells Shuichi to forget the incident and move on for the sake of his family. Good advice, but easier said than done, eh Shuichi...?

A HEN IN THE WIND, a title which conveys to me an image of the poor lonely mother trying to stay upright whilst being buffeted every-which-way by the cruel winds of war and its devastating aftermath, is my favourite of all of Ozu's films. It's honest and gritty and real, and it shows us some real poverty in a Japan that really suffered in the years following World War Two.

Ozu even shows us the beauty in the ugly industrial wasteland where the troubled pair are forced to live. He loves photographing the interiors of the little houses too, and there are plenty of his trademark shots of inanimate objects such as lamps or umbrella-or-hat-stands in the hall as well as shots of rooms temporarily empty of all human life.

I love the way he thinks that everything is worth filming, worth caressing lovingly with the light touch of his camera. He was a truly great film-maker. I bet he's up there now in the Afterlife, snapping away with his camera and annoying everyone present with his persistence and enthusiasm and constant hunt for perfection. Good on ya, Ozu. Keep up the good work.




AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








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