Thursday, May 31, 2012

Samma no aji / An Autumn Afternoon

Sanma no aji / Syksyinen iltapäivä / En hösteftermiddag. JP 1962. PC: Shochiku. P: Shizou Yamanochi. D: Yasujiro Ozu. SC: Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu. DP: Yuharu Atsuta - Agfacolor. AD: Tatsuo Hamada. Cost: Yuuji Nagashima. M: Takanobu Saito. "Gunkan machi" ("The Battleship March", 1897): a patriotic song composed originally for primary schools. ED: Yoshiyasu Hamamura. S: Ichiro Ishii. C: Chishu Ryu (Shuhei Hirayama), Shima Iwashita (Michiko Hirayama), Keiji Sada (Koichi Hirayama), Mariko Okada (Akiko Hirayama, his wife), Nobuo Nakamura (Shuzo Kawai), Kuniko Miyake (Nobuko Kawai, his wife), Ryuji Kita (Susumu Horie), Michiyo Kan (Tamako Horie, his second wife), Eijiro Tohno (Seitaro Sakuma, "The Gourd"), Teruo Yoshida (Yutaka Miura), Noriko Maki (Fusako Taguchi), Shinichirô Mikami (Kazuo Hirayama), Michiyo Tamaki (Tamako), Haruko Sugimura (Tomoko), Daisuke Kato (Yoshitaro Sakamoto), Kyoko Kishida (Madam at Kaoru), Toyoko Takahashi (waitress at Wakamatsu). Shinobu Asaji (Youko Sasaki, Shuhei's secretary). Studio: Shochiku-Ofuna. In Finland tv: 27.7.1985 MTV2, 21.2.1999 YLE TV1, 6.11.2005 YLE Teema. 112 min. A SFI Filmarkivet print (2005) with Swedish subtitles by Wakako Hongo and Per Sundfeldt. Electronic subtitles in Finnish by Eija Niskanen. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago), 31 May 2012.

The Japanese title of the movie refers to the taste of the fish called Pacific saury (also known as saira, or mackerel pike; the correct translitteration of the Japanese name seems to me nowadays sanma), in a season when it is at its tastiest. Although people eat all the time in this movie, and there is a scene where eel is eaten as a special delicacy, they never eat sanma.

Yokohama, the present.

Donald Richie's synopsis: "A company auditor, widowed and getting on in years, lives with his son and daughter and has as friends a few men his own age. From one of them he hears of the marriage of yet another friend's daughter. This sets him thinking about his own daughter. He decides that she should marry, and eventually arranges it with a young man recommended by his friends. The event goes off as planned. Again he meets with his friends. They all drink together once more, and he realizes that he is getting old, and that he is alone."

Revisited Yasujiro Ozu's final film in which there is no sign of him getting tired, although the director soon died of cancer on the evening of his 60th birthday. The subject is familiar, but there is a new vitality in the young characters. The portrait of the daughter Michiko (Shima Iwashita) is subtle. She is a modern woman with a sharp tongue, not submissive at all, yet facing the traditional fate of the youngest daughter. There are aspects of satire in the account of the modern young couple Koichi and Akiko with their fascination in consumer goods.

There is the familiar assured, laconic simplicity of Ozu's post-WWII style. Much of the narrative is realized via conversations over dinner and drink. After the people have left we see the empty space. There are recurrent short montages of chimneys, corridors, and streets signs.

Special emphases of this movie include: - Wartime nostalgia, and an ironic distance towards it: Shuhei Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) and his friends are war veterans. -  Alcoholism: the retired high-school teacher of the friends, Sakuma, now runs a noodle bar and drinks too much, supported by his long-suffering daughter who has never married. Sakuma becomes a warning example for Hirayama, because he also drinks a lot, and his daughter has not yet married, either. - Virility: a running joke is about Horie who has married a young woman about the age of his daughter and the virility medicine that he is supposed to need.

The marrying of Michiko becomes a major plot. There is such an ellipsis that we see the radiant Michiko in her lovely wedding dress but we never see the groom nor the wedding itself. When Hirayama visits his favourite bar, Torys Bar, after the wedding, dressed in his tailcoat, the bar hostess, who somehow reminds Hirayama of his wife, asks: "Are you coming from a funeral?"

There is a lounge music quality in Takanobu Saito's score. For a moment I was thinking about Marvin Hatley's Laurel and Hardy scores with their royal disregard for what is happening on screen.

The vanitatum vanitas theme in this movie is connected with consumer society.

"Finally you are alone" is the conclusion of the old teacher. In the final scene Hirayama gets to know what that means.

The print is brilliant, and it has been struck from a source with perfect colour. The visual quality is often fine, but at times I thought there was a slightly duped quality like in a good digital intermediate for a dvd master.

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