With his singular and unwavering style, Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963) disregarded the established rules of cinema and created a visual language all his own. Precise compositions, contemplative pacing, low camera angles, and elliptical storytelling are just some of the signature techniques the great filmmaker used to evoke a sense of melancholy and poetry in everyday existence. The three films that Ozu made between 1949 and 1953 constitute his most enduring achievement. Dubbed the “Noriko Trilogy” after the name of the female protagonist in all three films, the films (Late Spring, Early Summer, Tokyo Story) co-star the two most familiar members of Ozu’s longstanding stock company: Chishu Ryu (1904–1993), the director’s favourite actor; and Setsuko Hara (1920–2015), who plays Noriko in all three parts of the trilogy.
Early Summer (Bakushu/Japan) | (125 min; 1951; b/w; Japanese with English subtitles)
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Recipient of the Blue Ribbon Awards 1952 for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Cinematography; Kinema Junpo Awards 1952 for Best Film; and Mainichi Film Concours Awards 1952 for Best Film and Best Actress
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.