An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
Directed by Yashijiro Ozu
Who’s in it? Chishū Ryū, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada
What’s it about? The final and perhaps most touching film from the renowned Japanese auteur is a lovingly observed and delicately delivered family drama set in Japan, which sensitively brings to bear the full weight of cultural/relational experience you would expect from the Tokyo Story director. An Autumn Afternoon tells the story of ageing widower Shuhei (Ryu), struggling to stave the inevitable ache of loneliness since the death of his wife, and the travails of his three children with whom he busies himself. As his daughter’s proposed marriage approaches, Shuhei encourages her to follow his more traditional impulse re suitability, attempting to maintain a semblance of control over her life in his diminishing role, but also to feel needed and to be useful. Shot in colour, the film considers the commonalities of family life with uncommon wisdom and tenderness.
Memorable Moments? One scene, in which the prospective fiance of Shushei’s daughter Michiko is talking about her over dinner with a friend – “But I haven’t touched her yet”. “Liar!”. “Well, we have held hands” – captures the dignified propriety of a film very much of its time, and yet with a timeless universality.
Look Who’s Talking: ‘A relatable slice of life and, for Ozu fans, a final glimpse into a director’s evolving thoughts on life and culture in his last film.’ Filmcritic.com
Like that? Try this: Tokyo Story (1953), Ozu’s poignant parable for the modern age, on the fragility of family ties and old fashioned values, where work eclipses family and long established priorities shift. The film sees a retired couple visit their grandchildren in the city only to discover their children have no time for them. Its relevance for today is striking and suggests this Tokyo story could be anybody’s, anywhere.
Trivia Pursuit: The literal translation of the film’s Japanese title is, apparently, ‘The Taste of Mackerel Pike’.
Ronan Wright writes from Belfast and blogs at Filmplicity.