Close Up

1 - 29 January 2023: Yasujirō Ozu: Noriko Trilogy


Regarded by many to be amongst the finest film directors of all time, Yasujirō Ozu’s films tend to portray the subtle conflict between traditional Japanese culture and contemporary modern values – made in an elegant, restrained, formalist style that belie the emotional intensity they convey.

"Ozu’s body of work is incommensurable with that of any other Japanese filmmaker except perhaps Kurosawa...As a contribution to Japanese culture, however, it is comparable only to that of the great poets, painters or sculptors of the past." – Noël Burch


Late Spring
Yasujirō Ozu, 1949, 108 min

“The first and finest telling of a story Ozu was to remake with variations many times, Late Spring focuses on the dilemma faced by a young woman (Hara) who lives with her widowed father. She refuses several marriage offers, preferring to keep her father company rather than assume the duties of a housewife and mother. Determined that she will wed, he lets her think that he plans to remarry. Hailed by Donald Richie as “one of the most perfect, the most complete, and most successful studies of character ever achieved in Japanese cinema,” Late Spring was also one of Ozu’s personal favorites.” – Harvard Film Archive


Early Summer
Yasujiro Ozu, 1951, 135 min

"A family drama set in Kamakura, the leisurely, poignant Early Summer ends, as do so many Ozu films, in tears – theirs and ours. The Mamiya family takes up the challenge of finding a husband for Noriko (Setsuko Hara), a happily unmarried “working girl.” Her boss suggests a middle-aged businessman as a suitable prospect, but Noriko impulsively accepts another proposal and the family begins to disintegrate – ever so quietly – in the wake of her marriage. Consistently ranked with Late Spring and Tokyo Story as the best of Ozu’s postwar films, Early Summer is perhaps the most freely structured of his late work, with its elliptical narrative logic and constantly shifting rhythms.” – Harvard Film Archive


Tokyo Story
Yasujiro Ozu, 1953, 136 min

Tokyo Story has regularly placed on the top ten lists of greatest films of all time, along with Rules Of the Game, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Citizen Kane. It should be seen at least once, if not once a year. An elderly couple journeys to Tokyo to visit their children and are confronted by indifference, ingratitude, and self-absorption. The traditional tatami-and-tea domesticity fairly crackles with vexation and discontent; only the placid daughter-in-law (Setsuko Hara, summoning up a life of disappointment) shows any kindness to the old people. When they are packed off to a resort by their impatient children, the film deepens into an unbearably moving meditation on mortality.” – Harvard Film Archive