Early Summer

Movie Information

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Early Summer at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
Genre: Drama
Director: Yasujirô Ozu
Starring: Setsuko Hara, Chishû Ryû, Chikage Awashima, Kuniko Miyake, Ichirô Sugai
Rated: NR

Yasujirô Ozu is one of the most highly regarded—possibly the most highly regarded—of all Japanese filmmakers, but there’s no denying that his particular style and pace are a matter of taste, or possibly even an acquired taste. Nowhere is this any more evident than in Early Summer (1951). The film is a slight tale about a family in post-World War II Tokyo, centering on the unmarried 28-year-old daughter, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), who needs to be married off so that the parents can retire to the country. But Noriko has her own ideas about marriage. It comes down to a combination of a generational clash and the older folks—and patriarchal males—coming to terms with the Westernization of Japan. The film is leisurely paced and generally shot from Ozu’s trademark low-angle compositions. (Neither this, nor his tendency to eschew camera movement, is a strict rule, however. In fact, some of the film’s moving shots are peculiarly arbitrary.) This makes for a film that tends to play in a fairly constant style that seems to please some people more than I can say it does me. However, the film is held together by strong performances, especially from the almost luminous Hara. There’s also a surprising amount of light comedy and a pleasantly upbeat feel to the film. Whether or not it’s a great masterpiece is a judgment I leave to those more in tune with the director’s style.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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3 thoughts on “Early Summer

  1. Sean R. Moorhead

    Nowhere is this any more evident than in Early Summer (1951).

    You know, I admire Ozu a great deal, and a huge part of his appeal for me is his ability to define family life in terms of disconnected episodes. That said, even I find Early Summer intensely trying. The symbolism of the passage of time (Ozu’s major thematic preoccupation) is pretty cloying; and the individual vignettes, although their finest details are so carefully considered, don’t really amount to any kind of insight.

    However, the film is still worthwhile for two moments: the boss’s reference to “open clams and long rolls” and the husband and wife watching a balloon ascending into the sky.

  2. Sean R. Moorhead

    Oh, I don’t dislike it. I just find it entirely too slow — and I say that as someone who doesn’t find Ozu’s other films too slow.

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