After reading Donald Richie’s fascinating study of Japanese cinema A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, I became interested in seeing the films of Ozu Yasujiro 小津安二郎, Naruse Mikio 成濑巳喜男 and Mizoguchi Kenji 溝口健二 . While DVDs of Naruse and Mizoguchi films are harder to find and often quite expensive (think Criterion editions), Ozu’s films are extremely affordable as Hong Kong Region 3 DVDs. I’ve always been worried about the quality of these discs since local editions can be had for HK$49, compared to HK$340+ for a Criterion edition of the same film. But last week, I finally bought one title, Ozu’s last film An Autumn Afternoon 秋刀魚之味.
An Autumn Afternoon focuses on the dynamics between an aging widower and his daughter. Since the death of his wife, the widower has relied on his daughter to run his house efficiently. But at the beginning of the film, the father starts to worry that if he selfishly keeps his daughter from marriage, he will ruin her future and turn her into a sad spinster. In the end, the daughter finds a husband and leaves the father’s home to begin a new life. Ozu keeps the focus solely on the father’s feelings throughout the film and the original Japanese title The Taste of the Pacific Saury (a common fish eaten in Japan which tastes bitter) suggests the final outcome leaves the father lonely and sorely missing his daughter. Ozu avoids any form of melodrama in this film yet keeps viewers thoroughly engaged.