If you’ve yet to sample Ozu’s special alchemy in the BFI retrospective, two hours of gently paced dialogue scenes in a succession of interiors hardly sounds enticing. However, given his Chekhovian understanding of what makes people tick, Ozu is able to depict characters who rarely seem like cogs in a plot, rather (cultural differences notwithstanding) recognisable individuals trying to make the best of things, embodied by a splendid cast who turn acting into being. Thanks to the richly saturated Agfacolor and Ozu’s genius for expressive colour co-ordination, the film offers as much pure aesthetic pleasure as, say, Wong Kar-Wai, but it’s ultimately on a human level that it’s most affecting. Marriage might take the edge off the loneliness of growing old, but it separates parents from children and unwittingly loosens friendships. Hara’s undemonstrative yet knowing half-smile in the final scene registers the inevitable paradox of loving and losing. Cinema that speaks to the soul.
Cast and crew