Tuesday, September 04, 2012

お早よう / Hyvää huomenta / God morgon. JP 1959. PC: Shochiku. P: Shizuo Yamanouchi. D: Yasujiro Ozu. SC: Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Noda. DP: Yuharu Atsuta – Agfa-Shochikucolor. AD: Tsatsuo Hamada. M: Toshiro Mayuzumi. S: Yoshisaburo Seno. ED: Yoshiyasu Hamamura. C: Chishu Ryu (Keitarô Hayashi), Kuniko Miyake (Tamiko), Koji Shitara (Minoru Hayashi), Masahiko Shimazu (Isamu), Keiji Sada (Heiichirô Fukui), Yoshiko Kuga (Setsuko Arita), Haruko Tanaka, Hajime Shirata (Kozo).
    Telecast in Finland: 5.10.1968 MTV, 7.7.1981, 14.2.1999 YLE 1, 23.10.2005 YLE Teema. 94 min.
    A Carlotta Films print avec sous-titres français par Catherine X viewed with Finnish subtitles by Eija Niskanen at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Carte blanche à Lasse Naukkarinen), 4 September 2012.

Introduced by Lasse Naukkarinen, a distinguished film director and cinematographer whose 70th anniversary we celebrate this autumn by his carte blanche series. Lasse reminisced how he saw Ohayo for the first time in the Finnish Film Archive's first Ozu retrospective in the autumn 1963 in what was then called Cinema Orion but which was a different theatre at Kalevankatu 12 than our current one at Eerikinkatu 15; the Kalevankatu 12 building has since been demolished. A personal Ohayo connection is that Naukkarinen has often portrayed children in his movies. - L'Atalante may have influenced his Matkamuistoja [Souvenirs] and the way the ending of Peter von Bagh's Kreivi (The Count) was shot. - Vilgot Sjöman's I Am Curious movies influenced Jaakko Pakkasvirta's Kesäkapina [Summer Rebellion]. - Raoul Coutard's use of available light in Lola was a big influence, but when Coutard was asked what was the magic secret, his answer was about the film stock Gevapan 36, which was sensitive and rich-toned.

Donald Richie's synopsis:  "Two little boys live with their parents in suburban Tokyo housing development. A misunderstanding among the neighbor ladies is innocently compounded by the two boys. After an argument with their parents (they want a television set and their father refuses to buy one), they are told to shut up. Taking their parents at their word they shut up completely, not speaking to anyone, even the neighbours. These ladies, finding that the customary morning greeting (ohayo) goes unanswered, at once assume the boys' mother is angry with them, and a neighbourhood quarrel begins. Finally, the father relents, the television is bought, the boys answer the neighbour ladies politely, and all ends happily."

Farting has been a recurrent subject in Western movie comedy since Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles, but in Japan it seems to have a long tradition. It can hardly be presented more charmingly than here.

Ohayo is another of Ozu's films about the clash of the generations, and the focus here is on themes of communication, discussed at length by David Bordwell in his Ozu book. The breakthrough of television is taking place, and the boys want to watch sumo wrestling on tv. Since there is no tv set at home, they go to a neighbour's and even to a store window to watch it. Their English studies at school are in danger because of too much tv viewing, but they do their best to appease their mother and other ladies by repeating "I love you".

One of the funniest scenes of the movie is the family debate about idle talk. The boys exclaim that also grown-ups speak a lot of nonsense, empty phrases such as "hello, how are you, have a nice day, how wonderful". When dad tells the boys to shut up, they rebel by taking it literally and don't say a word to anybody for a couple of days. They try to communicate via pantomime, signs such as a circle made with fingers, and a knock on the forehead. And farting. Empty phrases are being compared with farting. One of the jokes is about a family father who farts, too, and the mother who enters to ask: "What did you say?"

Some of the grown-ups pause to think what the boys have said: that much of what we say is no more than empty phrases. Important matters remain unsaid, like that Fukui loves Setsuko. Instead, idle phrases about the weather are expressed. Yet words can also be like oil in life: even apparently empty phrases have an intrinsic value as they bring people together and keep them together.

More dangerously, words can hurt and rumours based on misunderstanding can damage reputations as we observe in the parallel story of a lost payment for the women's association.

Finally, the television set is bought, but the boys are required to do their homework before they may watch it. The story has brought their sister Setsuko in touch with the boys' English tutor Fukui. In the conclusion they meet each other at the railway station and exchange empty phrases about the weather.

Ohayo is a gentle contemporary comedy.

In his second colour film Ozu uses the Agfacolor palette in a subdued way, with occasional red spots important for the colour dynamics. The print looks fine, but as I have not seen this movie for a long time I have no point of comparison to judge whether it might be slightly soft.

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