Is there a director in the history of cinema with a more distinct style than Yasujiro Ozu? 1958's Equinox Flower was Ozu's first colour film and concerns itself with one of his favourite themes the family and it's discontents. The film is set during a time when arranged marriages were being challenged in Japan and it pits the emerging youth of the country, full of post war freedom and optimism, against their traditional parents who are finding it difficult to let go of their customs and ultimately their children. A Tokyo businessman, Waturu Hirayama, is continually approached by friends for advice, friends who have become powerless as parents and are struggling to impose their will on their daughters. Hirayama's apparent disappointment and resignation regarding his own arranged marriage informs his advice throughout. Consequently he is often conciliatory and impartial, trying his best to get both sides to see each other's point of view. Neither traditional nor modern in his outlook, instead he takes a humanist approach and strives for harmony amongst the protagonists. However, when a young man he has never met before enters his office and asks him for his own daughter's hand in marriage he finds it difficult to adopt this approach for himself and his family. On the one hand, he is initially hurt by the apparent lack of respect and involvement that he feels he should have been afforded by the young couple. He questions his role as a father and feels castrated by this power being taken out of hands. On the other hand, though, he suffers a sense of loss. He has nothing personal against the young man, and after making enquiries, is assured of his good nature. Nevertheless, rather than gaining a son, he's acutely aware that he is losing a daughter and, with that, some of his own identity. Not only losing her in marriage but also to a new way of life, a new culture where Hirayama is unsure of his role. In a broader sense, Equinox Flower, also offers an insight into the fast socio-cultural changes in post-war Japan as it becomes more influenced by capitalism and Western culture. Throughout the film, Hirayama alludes to the fact that his business and his workload are becoming increasingly busier. Scenes are often interspersed with images of industrial development and progress mixed with more traditional scenes of mountain ranges, the countryside and churches. It's also worth noting that, throughout the film, it is largely the women that are seen as the advocates of change, trying to find greater equality in a patriarchal society. The men, in comparison, are seen as passive and confused. Japan itself, like Hirayama, is going through a struggle, a process of change that tries to balance the traditional against the modern. Stylistically, Ozu's cinema is remarkable for those willing to give it a chance. All his trademarks are here zero camera movement, single character shots and evocative editing techniques. His unwillingness to ever let the camera move allows him to frame scenes as if they were photographs or paintings where the characters then suddenly come to life. His use of colour, here for the first time, is accomplished to say the least. Combine that with some wonderful sets and scenery and at times you could be forgiven for thinking you're watching an old MGM musical. Most remarkable of all, though, are Ozu's trademark tatami-level shots. Using a special camera dolly to simulate the three foot height of the average person kneeling or sitting on a tatami pad, Ozu creates a way of seeing the world that is specifically Japanese, specifically Ozu. The style is so unique and effective that it's difficult to imagine films being directed any other way. Buy the box sets, ration yourself to one film a year and you're in for a rare treat.
Comedy / Drama
Comedy / Drama
A businessman clashes with his elder daughter over her choice of a husband.
May 28, 2020