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Down in the valley it is already spring
Clouds of cherry blossoms;
But here, the sluggish eye, the taste of mackerel—
The blossoms are melancholy
And the flavor of sake becomes bitter.

– Yasujiro Ozu, after his mother’s funeral

” An Autumn Afternoon” is the last film ever made by Yasujiro Ozu, before he passed away due to cancer. As with many of his other films, “An Autumn Afternoon” is centralised on the theme of loneliness, of family, of dependence and of family and marriage. The film stars Chishu Ryu, who appears in almost every film Ozu ever made.

This film was a fitting one to be his last film. Something was worthy of ending his legacy. The film hinges alot on marriage, grace and humour. The film starts off in Hirayama’s office and home, with Hirayama constantly being urged by his friends to get married to a woman before it was too late. Throughout the progress of the film, Hirayama is also being exposed to the issue on marriage as people around him were getting married. After sometime of pondering, he finally takes on their advices.

AESTHETICS

Many of Ozu’s trademark shots can been seen in this film, as with all his other films. One of his hallmark elements are the use of shorts that were abit below or equal to a person’s eye level, it is usually stationary and has simple cuts rather than fades or wipes or dissolves.His shots often begin before anyone enters the frame, and end after the frame is empty again. There is foreground framing, from doors or walls or objects. There is meticulous attention to the things within the shot. These shots normally take on the view of a human eye, making it feel more personal, more sincere and calming to the viewers.

Another example of a notable shot by Ozu is his signature ‘Ozu Shot’ which focuses on the surrounding of an object that is placed directly beneath the camera or infront of the camera such that it can be seen but the focus is on the surrounding of the object. It gives off a disconnected feeling for the viewer with the world in the film.

Another key feature of Ozu’s is the use of the colors. Ozu characteristically displays great visual mastery, teasing our visual expectations in his imaginative use of offscreen space. In many of his shots, there is something red or orange in color to lead the viewer’s eyes around the background and the foreground of the shot, and not only on the character to give it a certain depth. These things are usually not obvious and are often caught on subconsciously by the viewers, things like a painting on the wall, a bottle, a mat on the floor. This objects mean nothing, they are just acting as signs or cues to lead the viewer to read the shot with more depth.

Ozu is one of the greatest and influential artists that ever ventured in the film industry, with many of his trademark shots conveying what other shot can’t. Many may consider an Ozu film as a very slow-paced and boring film. But you just have to take abit of time and you may be lost in the beauty of a Ozu film. That is the power of Yasujiro Ozu.

References

Geoff Andrew, 2008. An Autumn Afternoon: A Fond Farewell [online] Available at: http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/667-an-autumn-afternoon-a-fond-farewell

Roger Ebert, 2011. Great Movie – An Autumn Afternoon. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-an-autumn-afternoon-1962

Michael Scott, 2012. Focus on YASUJIRO OZU: An Autumn Afternoon (1962) [online] Available at: http://cuedotconfessions.blogspot.sg/2013/01/focus-on-yasujiro-ozu-autumn-afternoon.html

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2 thoughts on “An Autumn Afternoon 秋刀魚の味 (1962) – Yasujiro Ozu

  1. Hi,

    I think in this Critical Essay you have totally forgotten about your byline . I feel that your article focus too much on the aesthetical significance . I think you are missing the cultural and historical significance of the works. Ozu make this film partly because he feel it defines his identity, what it means to live, and express this most evocatively through an acute awareness of time’s transience, imbuing the cinematic image with a sense of nostalgia, loss, and the ephemerality of life. From this film and his other films we can understand he want to create a culture identity. He turns to the past in search of what it means to be a Japanese.

    http://ryan-harding.com/essays/yearningforalostera.html
    http://www.slantmagazine.com/house/2010/11/the-conversations-an-autumn-afternoon/
    http://www.contactmusic.com/movie-review/anautumnafternoon
    http://www.filmref.com/directors/dirpages/ozu.html

    Regards
    Keng Hao

  2. Hi Jason, although you essay is quite informative, there is a lack of information how Ozu impacted the other filmmakers and what other critics thought about Ozu work’s. You might one to look up for critic David Broadwell, who has done extensive research on Ozu and he’s opinions on him are largely well regarded. At the start of the essay you wrote down something that Ozu said after his mother’s funeral but did not further elaborate. Perhaps you would like to elaborate further as the I would like to know why you chose to quote that as you opening statement. Also, his mother death had a large impact and Ozu, which caused the mood of his last film to be more sombre then his previous works, but is not mentioned here. You might want to add these stuff in for a final edit.

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