When I volunteered to write about the Yasijiro Ozu and Setsuko Hara for CineMaven’s Classic Symbiotic Collaborations blog-a-thon I felt that I knew exactly how I would approach the task. The logical first step was clear that I would revisit the six films the two worked on together. I have enjoyed Tokyo Story and Late Spring several times each but the others, Early Summer, Tokyo Twilight, Late Autumn and The End of Summer, needed a little refresher. Then life happened. Between my initial conversation Ms. Brown and now we have had the holidays, weather, and I have made myself available to two funerals and a house brimming with children in from out of town.
This morning I considered sending Ms. Brown an e-mail to apologize and bow out of my volunteer responsibility. This is not something I really wanted to do but I did not have time for the revisits I was intending and I felt underqualified to set out to write the piece.
That is when it hit me like a freight train. The exact reason why I was about to give up is the very same reason that Ozu and Hara films are so perfect. These pieces of cinema history is a true dramatic representation of life happening and I can say, without question, that I am much better for having viewed the films.
This past weekend saw the memorial service for my wife’s grandfather and with it I found myself surrounded by my cousin and her four little balls of energy. As I look back to the week leading up to their arrival I think of the oldest children in Tokyo Story, both busy and both excited for their family to come into town but also both reticent about how to budget their time to be able to still work while showing a decent time to their parents. With luck I performed much more admirably than the children in the film and more like Hara’s character Noriko, their widowed daughter-in-law, who at no point in time saw their visit as anything less than a great honor.
The stories that Ozu and Hara left to us are not high art, or drippy melodrama, they are painted portraits of love, family, and friends. I could sit around and watch and re-watch the films over and over again measuring shots and try to find every slight nuance but that would be missing the point. The films of Ozu and Hara are so perfectly simple that you don’t need to analyze them.
Go hug someone. I think that is what the two of them would prefer.