27-year-old Noriko lives with her beloved father in the suburbs of Tokyo. Recently recovered from an illness which developed during World War II, Noriko has no interest in marriage, enjoying the quiet, comfortable life she shares with her father in their house. But when Noriko’s aunt—refusing to accept her niece’s content lack of interest in marriage—starts pushing her to find a husband, Noriko feels the pressure, especially when it is revealed that her father might not need her as much as she thinks he does...

A domestic drama with Ozu's beautifully detailed style.

Another important post-WWII film from director Yasujiro Ozu, Late Spring is a domestic drama about the pressures and expectations of family, tradition and culture. Made in 1949, a number of critics have noted Late Spring as the first film of Ozu’s to explore the themes, characters and ideas that would pre-occupy him over the following decade or so. Marriage, inter-generational conflict, a yearning for those things in the past that can never quite be recovered, the tortured and beautiful threads that bind parents and children"¦ these things are important ideas to explore for Ozu.

Central to the story here is what happens to the ever-smiling Noriko (the gorgeous Setsuko Hara, who would become a strong collaborator of Ozu’s and feature in five other of his films). Twenty-something and unmarried, Noriko is the daughter of widower Shukichi Somiya (Chishu Ryu). It’s suggested she marry. Noriko wonders why – she’s perfectly happy. The romantic intrigue builds. There is a last minute plot twist, which is devastating.

Ozu’s style is controlled, beautifully detailed and absorbed in the day to day and over the length of the film where shots, bits of business and even actor’s looks begin to accrue new meanings. The beat here where Noriko stops smiling is, arguably, one of '40s cinema’s great moments.

The only major feature on this disc is an excellent commentary from Ross Gibson, an Ozu fan and noted academic. Essentially it’s an audio essay on the director that muses over every aspect of Ozu’s life and work; it’s especially good on excavating the tell-tale signs of social commentary that Ozu bled into his work. Gibson argues amongst other things that Ozu’s films after 1945 offer a splendid and subtle take on the pressures, needs and desires that absorbed Japanese society as the country re-built itself after the war where tradition was beginning to make way for new values and new ideas.


1 hour 48 min
Wed, 07/01/2009 - 11