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.