Late Spring is the third Ozu movie I’ve seen, the first being Tokyo Story, and the second being Autumn Afternoon, which I commented on over on Letterboxd. These two movies have convinced me that, although I’m not sure I’ll ever be up for the silent ones, I definitely want to see all the talkies in the Ozu cannon. If you’re not sure about auteur theory, Ozu will make you a believer.
There isn’t 10 cents difference, plot wise, between Late Spring and Autumn afternoon. Ozu is the AC/DC of art house film making; he made the same freaking movie multiple times, and each one still hits the mark. I remember visiting a web site showing the guitar setups of various guitar players. Steve Vai’s setup is mind blowing. There are eleven items on the pedal board alone. In contrast, Angus Young’s is a Gibson straight into a Marshall. Does that mean the complexity of his setup in comparison to Young’s somehow cheapens what he’s dong? Of course not–but it does give you an appreciation for just how much impact can be had from the primary colors when placed in the hands of a master.
I can’t really explain what I find so appealing about Ozu’s films, but I can list them: I love the composition of the shots. Watching an Ozu film is like taking a walk in a Japanese garden. The overall tone is melancholy, yes, but the individual shots are very calming. I love the use of negative space. Ozu shots frequently begin with an empty room. Karl Kraus said, “One’s need for loneliness is not satisfied if one sits at a table alone. There must be empty chairs as well.” Ozu shows us the empty chairs. And I love the purity of the characters. They speak bluntly, but disarmingly. The idea of an unreliable narrator is unthinkable in Ozu.
Do I sound like I’m gushing? Very well then. I am gushing. I feel better each time I watch one, and if that’s not art, I don’t know what is.