Well…it ain’t Hausu.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there was definitely an adjustment to Yasurjiro Ozu’s style when I saw Early Summer as part of Film Forum’s retrospective dedicated to five Japanese divas of the post-War period. While the past year and a half has been very much about my ongoing exposure to Japanese film, most of the ones I’ve really gravitated to have been, how shall I say this, “batshit crazy.” Like Hausu, also in the Criterion Collection, or Kwaidan, which I previously reviewed. There was also Oshima’s The Ceremony, which isn’t even on DVD, but is probably my favorite experience at a theater in recent memory. I think about that film once or twice a month, easy.
Ozu, on the other hand, is very staid and slow in his direction. He uses a unique camera angle that puts the viewer at about waist level, from the perspective of someone kneeling on a traditional Japanese mat (thanks, Wikipedia). Nothing blows up in Early Summer, and people don’t even raise their voices.
And yet, I found the simplicity of Early Summer — about three generations of a Japanese family trying to marry their oldest daughter, shockingly single at twenty-eight — to be just as moving and effective as the more out-there Japanese films I’ve seen. The use of that aformentioned camera style was fascinating to me, especially since much of the humor in the film comes from the youngest generation, two siblings, and for much of the film, I thought it was supposed to be from a child’s perspective. And I was impressed by Ozu’s shot composition, too; there’s a shot of the two single people in the movie sitting by the ocean that knocked me out.
Early Summer is slow, but it’s never boring, and it creeps up on you. The focus here is on the family, on their interactions and it’s through those that you learn of their love for one another, a love that ranges from the two children all the way up to the older parents. One of the more moving moments in the movie is where the matriarch talks about how, though she rarely brings it up, the memory of her dead son, lost in World War II, still haunts her.
I know I haven’t blogged much with this Criterion Collection project lately, and I hope to do so in the coming weeks. This is a shorter entry than most, but I really enjoyed Early Summer, and if you’re willing to give it a chance and your time, I think you’ll get a lot out of it.
Next: Young Mr. Lincoln