• Late_spring_current_large

    Every ten years since 1952, the world-renowned film magazine Sight & Sound has polled a wide international selection of film critics and directors on what they consider to be the ten greatest works of cinema ever made, and then compiled the results. The top fifty movies in the 2012 critics’ list, unveiled August 1, include twenty-five Criterion titles. In this series, we highlight those classic films.

    Yasujiro Ozu is one of only a handful of directors with two films in Sight & Sound’s top fifty. In addition to his empathic yet unsparing Tokyo Story, Late Spring, his rich portrait of a father and daughter’s close bond, also made the cut. Ozu had been directing films since the mid-1920s, plying his trade on silent comedies, gangster pictures, and family dramas, so by the time he made Late Spring in 1949, he was well rehearsed. But this exquisite jewel of a film represented a leap forward for him in terms of style: it is a masterpiece of balance, pared down to the point that every delicate cut and camera angle feels pregnant with meaning yet unforced. It also signaled the beginning of a new phase of his career, as in the coming decade, Ozu would focus more than ever on the intricacies of family life.

    Chishu Ryu, already one of the director’s standby actors, and Setsuko Hara, in her first of many roles for him, play Shukichi and Noriko in Late Spring. Though they were naturally gifted, warm performers, it is often the way Ozu places them in the frame that is responsible for the lasting imprint they have made on film history. In this effortlessly poignant clip, watch how much Ozu communicates about the gulf opening between the two characters by simply separating them as they walk down a long stretch of road.

    When you start conjuring up images of Ozu’s films, Ryu’s kindly, weathered face is bound to come to mind before too long. The actor often played characters who were years older than he was; he was only in his mid-forties when he took on the role of the elderly father in Late Spring. In 1985, Wim Wenders visited Ryu for his documentary about Japan, Tokyo-ga (available as a supplement on our release of Late Spring). In this clip from Wenders’s film, the ever humble actor reminisces about working with the master director.

5 comments

  • By Batzomon
    October 13, 2012
    06:26 AM

    The last scene says everything about letting your child go. It's fuzzy in my mind, because I was crying.
    Reply
  • By Leo Wong
    October 13, 2012
    08:46 AM

    Late Spring was Setsuko Hara's first film with Ozu. She then made five more films with him. But in 1949 Hara was hardly one of Ozu's "standby actors."
    Reply
    • By Anna T.
      October 13, 2012
      02:20 PM

      You're right, of course, Leo. Thanks for the catch.
  • By Raj Bhattarai
    November 05, 2012
    02:52 PM

    The phrase "already one of the director’s standby actors" refers only to Chishu Ryu, and not to Setsuko Hara.
    Reply
  • By Barry Moore
    July 15, 2013
    11:06 AM

    'Late Spring' is one of the supreme masterpieces of world cinema, superior, to my mind, to 'Tokyo Story', which has long struck me as somewhat overrated within Ozu's body of work. The ending of 'Late Spring' is absolutely heartbreaking, all the more affecting for the quietness and subtlety of the scene. 'Late Spring' is perhaps unparalleled in visual beauty and narrative purity among Ozu's later films, though overall I prefer the 1951 'Early Summer', in some ways an even more impressive masterwork.
    Reply