Ozu’s final film (he died a year later) explores much the same territory as his earlier Late Spring; namely the disintegration and reintegration of the nuclear Japanese family post WWII. Once again an aging widower is concerned over his daughter’s refusal to marry due to her filial obligation to look after him. Afraid that 24-year old Michiko will miss out on the happiest time of her life, Mr. Hirayama enlists the aid of friends and family to find her a suitable mate even though the prospect of losing her is taking a greater toll on his peace of mind than he’s willing to admit. Ozu’s usual assortment of visual cues are here with train whistles and drifting smoke reminding us that the clock is ticking; but there is an undertone of pessimism at work (or is it just resignation?) not usually seen in his family dramas. A reunion with a former high school professor reveals an old man trying to alleviate his many life regrets through alcoholic binges; a contentious pair of golf clubs bought by Hirayama’s cash-strapped son casts a glaring eye on Japan’s emerging consumerism; and some wartime recollections in a smokey bar hint at a deeper cynicism. An appropriately bittersweet ending, sad yet oddly comforting, provides the perfect capstone for one of cinema’s more distinguished careers.
Drawn-out, but ultimately enjoyable study of parent and grown children family dynamics in early 1960s Japan.
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