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Early Summer (1951)

I read a couple of posts on this film and it seems that quite a few people didn’t like it. I, on the other hand, enjoyed this “lagging” narrative. I found it very different from what we’re used to (American films) which intrigued me to observe the style from a different perspective. I’ve been exposed to Japanese films before – can’t recall the title- so I knew that all Japanese films don’t follow the same techniques as in Early Summer. It was an interesting choice of film though, very modest and humble to traditional family life. The entire storyline was based on Noriko getting hitched, which is an important milestone in any family/culture.  The concept didn’t seem to phase her much, being that she was 28 and still living in her parents’ house with her brother and his family. I think she kept her real thoughts and emotions suppressed until the opportunity presented itself – which it did. The arrangement didn’t even seem to be out of love but out of convenience and opportunity like Yabe’s mom says after Noriko goes for a visit.

Noriko’s and Koichi (her brother) wife’s relationship was kind of confusing to me at first but I understood who she was after her authorative gesture towards the little boys. They were like best friends, even though Noriko had her established clique of girlfriends. I felt that Noriko’s marriage was a huge loss for her sister-in-law because her main duties were focused around the home and the family and after Noriko’s leaves who would she confide in. My favorite characters were the little boys- the older brother and Isamu. They defied the traditional role of how children “respect their elders”. I realized a narrative ellipse in the film when the boys went missing, after being scolded from kicking the loaf of bread. We never find out where they went or how they are found, we just seem them at the very end for the family portrait.

There were a couple of “pillow shots” in which we are just staring at still life, like familarizing ourselves with the scene and surroundings (mise-en-scene). I found this to be a smooth break throughout the film which allowed us to digest the events that just transpired. I also enjoyed the way the scenes would start and then we would see the characters move throughout them rather than the camera following them. Since the camera was angled low or towards the eyeline, it gave me a sense of realness and intimacy with the characters. Ozu’s techniques are different and original, which is what filmmaking is all about.

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2 Comments

  1.   robertchang89 wrote:

    I agree I didn’t understand the relationship of the family members at first either. Ozu never officially establishes to us who is who ,but we figure out later on whose the brother,father, and sister-law. I think the pillow shots were quite interesting , because in hollywood cinema of a scene like that were to take place we’d expect something to happen, instead it is just black filming of the surrounding. Which had its affect for me to give some thought about what just took place.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  2.   dannyjustin wrote:

    Tokyo story also exemplifies Ozu’s unique style while taking advantage of low camera angles, 180-degree cuts, virtually no camera movements, and shots linked through overlapping bits of space. Ozu takes away from the narrative aspect and focuses on formal elements for the films sake. In dialogue scenes Ozu refuses to cut away from a speaking character like every person has the right to be heard in full. Ozu’s other films like Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer (1951) use his distinctive techniques more playfully, but here he seems chiefly concerned with creating a quiet world against which his characters’ personalities stand out. The film reprises one of the director’s classic themes that of generational conflict in a way that is totally Japanese and yet so universal in its appeal that it continues to be memorable throughout all of film history. Ozu often centered his plots upon getting a daughter married, a situation around which an array of characters’ lives could be revealed something like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. But Tokyo Story lacks even this minimal plot drive as it carries to a limit Ozu’s faith that everyday life rendered tellingly, provides more than enough drama to effect us deeply.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

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