Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu)

Ozu's films are demanding and complex examinations of family. His camera is still and removed, eschewing closeups and subjective camera angles, emulating the human eye and its surface limitations, refusing to provide clues or answers for its characters' behaviors. We have to rely on what we see, even though what we see may be limited, obscured, misinterpreted, or wrong. Do the faces of these people on the screen reveal what they're actually thinking? Do ours? Late Spring's story of a widowed professor pressuring his youngest daughter and caretaker, a single woman in her mid-twenties, into marriage, though he doesn't want her to leave and she doesn't want to go, is a deeply mysterious, troubling, tragic, and optimistic film that will hopefully resonate with anyone feeling a push/pull relationship with his or her own family. I wish all the people who spend hours trying to figure out every nuance of The Usual Suspects or Memento would spend their time thinking about Ozu instead. His mysteries aren't about fitting together puzzle pieces or dressing up conventional, pointless entertainments by withholding information or reversing plot expectations. Instead, they are the mysteries of our own behavior, mysteries worth examining not because they can be solved, but because the tiny insights we can partially glean may actually affect our lives instead of diverting us from lived experience for a couple of hours.

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