Ozu’s LATE SPRING, Change, and Loss

Late Spring was the first Yasujiro Ozu movie I ever saw, and it was something of a revelation. I had never been so moved by such subtlety, precision, and complete lack of grandiose gesture or sentiment. So unemotional and even-keeled, yet powerful beyond measure, an Ozu film can leave you floored with a simple gesture or look. The final scene in Late Spring  destroyed me with a man peeling an apple; an act that held all the loss, heartache, joy, and deep love that pervades every ounce of that movie. I have since watched many of this great artist’s films, and I go to them when I need centering or to be reminded of how deep movies can take me.

Yasujiro Ozu is a quintessential auteur who addresses the same subjects over and over again in the same unique style. He is trying to understand how a nation can hold onto meaning when everything around it has changed. While there are countless ways to express this in post-war Japan, he illuminates the crisis of modernity by focusing on the home. Ozu is a savant of domesticity who dwells relentlessly in the minutiae of family life, but to dismiss his movies as mere melodrama is to dismiss the profundity of a father’s love for his daughter, a daughter’s disappointment, or what it means to lose something that you may have never had in the first place. It is to ignore getting drunk in a bar while listening to a song charged with memory, or meeting with an old friend and laughing at misfortune, or saying goodbye to the person you love more than you can ever understand. Ozu’s movies force us to face the truth of our own lives, and confront in them what frightens us most; that they are so unequivocally important and powerful.

It is not happenstance that I am writing about Ozu. The truth is that my time as a full-time stay-at-home parent is ending today, as I start a new full-time job. One of the things that Ozu, and Late Spring in particular, has shown me is that every gain means we lose something, and that loss is an ever-present reality even in times of great joy. I am happy to begin what I hope will become a long and fulfilling career. I am happy to be able to provide financially for my family. But I am going to miss my daughter. I am going to miss waking up to her kisses and her climbing all over me. I am going to miss making her breakfast and reading her books and watching Sesame Street after her nap. I am going to miss all of the little moments that make up our days together, all the hugs and smiles and laughs, and tears and cries. I feel like the last six months have been a gift and an opportunity that I might never get to experience again. I also know that there will be new experiences and gifts and joys in the future. I know that loss and gain are not mutually exclusive. But still, I am hurting. I love you Lulu.

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14 Responses to Ozu’s LATE SPRING, Change, and Loss

  1. vinnieh says:

    I love how you incorporate things from your life into these reviews. Excellent post.

  2. Very nice review and excellent integration of the personal into the highly personal work of an artist like Ozu. Were I not dedicated to steeping myself all things horror at the moment, I’d want to revisit this picture.

    As it is, all the best at your new job and all comfort to you as you mitigate the waters between loss and gain.

  3. Thank you, Jordan. Always a pleasure to have your comments.

  4. amb says:

    Oh for crying out loud. I’m sorry, but could you and Lulu be any cuter ?!?! Moving on and (trying) to sound like a grown up, I haven’t seen any of Ozu’s movies, but this sentence: “Ozu is a savant of domesticity who dwells relentlessly in the minutiae of family life” makes me want to watch them. One of these days you and I are going to have a fantastic chat about melodrama and the way profound social commentary can be slipped into a story that’s “only” about family; in the meantime, I heart that you used the word profundity.

    • Thanks, Amber! I do love melodrama and think that some of the smartest social critiques come out of this tradition. Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray come to mind.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • amb says:

        Hi, “All That Heaven Allows”? It’s me, Amber. I love you. In a repressed, desperate, utterly fabulous looking kind of way.

        So. Good !!!

  5. Jack Flacco says:

    With every change comes challenge. With every challenge comes reward. Although it may seem as a change in pace, the reward will come in the form of something new and different. What you’re giving up now, the sacrifice, will more than likely give pause to appreciate what comes of the venture you’re embarking. Have fun! Enjoy! Let the wind take you to where you want to go!

    I sincerely mean that.

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  7. Carolyn says:

    Congrats on your new job. Sincere condolences on the loss of your old job. I do get it. Congrats on having had that job for six lovely months. I wish you good memories of the past and good adventures in the present moment.

    Oh, and I’ve never seen an Ozu movie, but you make me want to. Is Late Spring a good one to begin with?

  8. Thanks for the kind words, Carolyn. And yes, I think Late Spring is a great place to start. Tokyo Story (which I haven’t seen) is his most famous, and An Autumn Afternoon is my personal favorite.

  9. Twist says:

    Thank you for recommending this post! And I agree with the first comment. It’s truly amazing how you’ve incorporated movie art to describe a personal ache. It shows just how passionate you are about cinema. Fabulous writing.
    Also, Lulu is lucky and I know that because she has a great Dad who will one day show her Ozu’s movies and express his deep love for her in a manner so completely unique. She’ll have these posts to read on her off days and life will seem much better.

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