240 Early Summer

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Gregory
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#26 Post by Gregory » Sat Mar 12, 2005 3:57 pm

Based on a variety of interrelated evidence throughout the film, I tend to believe Noriko's personal wish was not to seek marriage at all at that point in her life.

1. She is deferential but firm in her unwillingness to even discuss the possibility of marriage with her family members. This could be seen as simply resisting their attempts to make a match for her, but if it were merely that she could have said that she was willing to marry but wanted to find a husband on her own (against tradition). But she would say even that.

2. With her friends, she clearly identifies with Aya as one who believes in being single. She and Aya make fun of the pomposity of her married friends who are self-important about their own marriages. This fundamental difference in outlook and priorities creates a rift in the group, with Noriko strongly on the bachelorette side. Ozu is clearly telling us something about her character here.

3. Noriko's strength, maturity, independence, and other personal traits (which are in conflict with her sense of obligation to her family) are such that if she ever wanted to get married, she would do so because she fell in love, not because of social expectation. Is she in love with Yabe? Clearly not -- the way she acts on her decision bears no resemblance to one made out of passion. As she explains repeatedly, she chose Yabe because he's a trustworthy friend of the family whom she has known since childhood and she expects she will enjoy life with him more than she would with the older businessman with whom her boss had tried to match her.

4. Combine these with the building pressure from her family that Ozu established from the beginning of the film, and I think it's clear what led to Noriko's decision: a desire to fulfill her family's wishes but on her own terms and in a way that would avoid the worst possible outcomes of those wishes.

5. The scene in which Mrs. Yabe gives Noriko her chance to be matched to her son contains two long shots that hide Noriko's face. As in Late Spring, when her eyes are hidden from us just before the marriage ceremony, this suggests that her emotions and personal desires are dissociated from her actions. Ozu of course did not do what the average director would do: have Noriko show feelings of conflict and uncertainty at that moment. Instead, he hid her face from to discourage the viewer's assumption that her decision was passionate or motivated by personal fulfillment.

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Michael Kerpan
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#27 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Mar 12, 2005 6:11 pm

Gregory

We're just going to have to disagree. You are entitled to your reading -- but I simply don't buy your arguments here.

Her future mother-in-law does not really propose that Noriko marry her son. She is simply mentioning (rather tentatively) that she had wished this might happen someday -- and was sad that it seemed like it could never happen now. She is utterly flabbergasted when Noriko chooses to take this as a proposal -- and accepts it. It is possible that Noriko had silently wished for such an arrangement herself -- but was too reticent to ever bring up the subject. Once the idea was raised, she wasted no time.

It is pretty clear that Noriko simply digs in her heels when other family members (or her boss) try to arrange her life for her -- she doesn't confide her thoughts to any of them. She resists -- and then does what she wants. She COULD voice her preferences -- but obviously this is not the way SHE works. Besides, let's assume she wanted to marry Yabe all along -- it is clear that this would have met familial resistence.

While Noriko derides the pomposity of her married friends -- she doesn't seem to object to the fact that they married. It is clear that she has no plan to act in any simlar fashion once she is married.

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Gregory
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#28 Post by Gregory » Sat Mar 12, 2005 6:30 pm

Her future mother-in-law does not really propose that Noriko marry her son. She is simply mentioning (rather tentatively) that she had wished this might happen someday -- and was sad that it seemed like it could never happen now. She is utterly flabbergasted when Noriko chooses to take this as a proposal -- and accepts it.
I never said otherwise, and in fact her taking this opportunity was part of my "choice of evils" interpretation.
I was enjoying the discussion but will agree to disagree if you prefer.

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#29 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Mar 12, 2005 6:46 pm

> in fact her taking this opportunity was part of my "choice of
> evils" interpretation.

But my point is that I see no plausible textual support for believing Noriko saw anything _evil_ about the course she took (except for the fact that getting married to _anyone_ broke up the family as it was currently configured -- something which would happen sooner or later, in any event).

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zedz
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#30 Post by zedz » Sun Mar 13, 2005 7:37 pm

My reading of the film is that's what's shocking / surprising about Noriko's action is that she undertook it without consultation with her family. I don't think her choice of husband is particularly outrageous or problematic (and as I recall, the alternative suitor seemed to come with his own suitability issues), and it's not correct to see Noriko as willfully 'breaking up the family,' as this would be the consequence of any match. One thing I love about this film is that these ordinary dramas are not blown out of proportion by Ozu: sure, there are some hurt feelings, but everyone's going to get over it; Noriko sneaks a peek at her alternative suitor, but it doesn't precipitate a crisis.

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#31 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:32 am

> Noriko sneaks a peek at her alternative suitor, but it
> doesn't precipitate a crisis.

And Ozu -- tease that he is -- doesn't share the peek with us, the audience. ;~}

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zedz
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#32 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 14, 2005 4:05 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:> Noriko sneaks a peek at her alternative suitor, but it
> doesn't precipitate a crisis.

And Ozu -- tease that he is -- doesn't share the peek with us, the audience. ;~}
Isn't that a beautiful moment? That amazing backward tracking shot - so unexpected! - is really setting us up for a major plot development (or at least a comic revelation), then Ozu deftly pulls the rug out from under us. He's having a lot of fun in this film.

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#33 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 14, 2005 4:10 pm

Many magical moments in this film. The one near the end where Noriko and her sister-in-law go to the beachtogether is another.

My favorite comic moment is Chishu Ryu as Jack-in-the-Box, popping out from behind the closed sliding door, after eavesdropping on his wife and sister.

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Gregory
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#34 Post by Gregory » Mon Mar 14, 2005 5:51 pm

I've never been sure why this particular film had so many unusual (for Ozu) camera movements. In addition to the backward tracking shot and the crane shot already mentioned there are a couple of shots (e.g. the exterior of the clinic) that track briefly to the right and then come to a stop.
In most writing on Ozu, the authors seem to like remarking on these shots but seldom attempt any explanation of why Ozu used them more in this film than in his other films, especially the sound films, in which they seldom (or never, in the case of the crane shot) were used.

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#35 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 14, 2005 6:03 pm

"Late Spring", "Green Tea" and "Early Summer" all have a lot of camera movement compared to the films of the early 40s and the those of the later 50s. I think this may partly be due to Ozu's heavy exposure to Hollywood films while he was posted in Singapore during WW2 (and spent most of his time screening confiscated Hollywood films -- instead of making propaganda films). He started becoming more restrained again with "Tokyo Story". Also his first two post-war films ("Tenement Gentleman" and "Hen in the Wind") were more austere in their camera usage -- and did not attract big audiences.

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Gregory
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#36 Post by Gregory » Mon Mar 14, 2005 6:40 pm

Thanks. I've only seen Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice once and didn't remember a lot on the technical side. Late Spring has several camera movements, but I still think Early Summer has notably more than any of the other postwar films. I was thinking that the reason for this might have had something to do with Ozu's approach to that particular film and what he wanted to communicate with it.

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#37 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 14, 2005 8:40 pm

What strikes me about the camera movements in Early Summer - and other Ozu - is just how right they are. In all of the instances that come to mind, the camera movements serve the content perfectly (e.g. that wonderful non-revelation wouldn't work half so well without the tracking - it's like the music swelling up for a big musical number that never arrives). I think Ozu eschewed superfluous camera movement rather than camera movement per se.

Of course, the very rarity of such movements only emphasises their resonance and significance. That beach shot could never be so breathtaking in the context of incessant motion, but in Ozu's film it almost hits with the poetic force of those fluttering eyelids in La Jetee.

Early Summer is formally playful in other ways, as well, such as that terrific cut from the live performance to the radio broadcast (or was it vice versa?).

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Gregory
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#38 Post by Gregory » Mon Mar 14, 2005 9:12 pm

I think Ozu eschewed superfluous camera movement rather than camera movement per se.
He eventually came to eschew all camera movement. I don't believe there's a single instance of it in the color films.
Of course, the very rarity of such movements only emphasises their resonance and significance.
I agree with this, generally, which is why I was puzzled by the brief tracking shots toward the right, which seemed more like establishing shots than something I would think of as especially significant.

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#39 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 14, 2005 9:25 pm

Movement in the color films

Well, there is the fixed camera on a moving boat in "Floating Weeds" -- but otherwise no literal movement. There is, however, virtual movement (along with virtual long takes) -- where a series of staged shots gives one the psychological sense of unified movements (and unified longer stretches of time).

Some of the tracking shots in these late 40s/early 50s films strike me as having a teasing character.

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Gregory
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#40 Post by Gregory » Tue Mar 15, 2005 10:31 pm

I would point out that within feminist discourse are quite a few senses of 'lesbian.' Some are very broad, e.g., any way of living as a woman that repudiates the heteronormative tradition of the nuclear family.

However, this observation is just for the sake of a broader discussion of the film. It seems the author, Michael Grost, did not use 'lesbian' in any of those senses of the term. I would agree with him that Noriko's offer to Mrs. Yabe to marry her son is important because it underscores a break with tradition by not involving men. But I cannot understand his claim that this scene shows that "the relationship between the two women is all-important" and that "we are witnessing a lesbian love story." That's where he goes way off-course, in my opinion.

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#41 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:09 pm

Michael Grost seems to miss the fact that there are, in fact, three generations of women being bound by affection, not two. Noriko has a strong affection for Yabe's little daughter -- as well as his mother. One wonders what link Noriko had with Yabe's late wife -- could the two have been close friends? Lots of unanswered questions in the film.

This discussion has inspired me to revisit Ozu's post-war films. So far I've watched "Tenement Gentleman" and "Hen in the Wind". Both have only tiny amounts of camera movement ("Hen" having a bit more) -- in all instances, simply tracking moving characters.

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#42 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Mar 16, 2005 5:47 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:I would say that the reading is highly subjective, but that Ozu leaves the meaning open enough to allow such a reading.
Yes, I'd agree with that, it does seem like it is very subjective and sometimes feels like too much has been read into it. But even something we do not agree with or which can be seen as a bad interpretation can raise some interesting issues that we can discuss as we clarify why we do not believe what is said to be correct, which I think is being done very well in this discussion. For example the films being thinly veiled discussions of the difficulties of being homosexual are very interesting, and as Michael Kerpan posted, Ozu's films seem left open to place your own interpretation on, and since the problems are that of family relationships, of being unable to keep up a facade and having to be true to yourself, even though you know it might hurt others, I can see how the film could be applicable to a number of different situations people might find themselves in.

So while I think this reviewer has perhaps over analysed, being prone to doing that myself I can maybe understand at least he is being true to himself and giving his personal reaction, albeit one that it might be best to discuss. My own personal opinion would be that the above would be too concrete an interpretation, and that the beauty of the films made by Ozu is that they are very simply and economically told, but through this simplicity they become both specific and generally applicable to all sorts of situations - a sort of 'all the world revealed in a grain of sand' approach.

I would agree with the interpretations above of the difficulties being that Noriko did not want her life organised and did not feel the need to consult with her family for their consent. A simple situation, and one which I think many might recognise. I could understand a situation where parents and friends push potential mates forward because they are doing the best thing, and while they may be doing it in the best interests of the person involved, it can also be frustrating that they do that, because it prevents people from making a connection themselves. But it must be much worse if a person is independently minded and pushing against a family and society that pushes arranged marriages and respect for a parent's decision - to go against that and choose someone else, let alone choose not to marry, would be a big break from protocol and all the ways that the culture is run, and the person could risk being ostracised for their inability to conform, which is why I respect Noriko for trying to stay true to herself while being concious of the unfortunate yet necessary difficulties she may be causing due to the unasked for and unwanted expectation and pressure placed on her.

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#43 Post by King of Kong » Wed Jul 13, 2005 9:32 am

I've just received my Early Summer from amazon. I gave it a spin this evening, and although I was generally pleased with the print, there's some quite prominent hissing during the scene when Chishu Ryu's character is at his friend's house and receives a call notifying him that his sons have returned home. It's a niggle, I know, but it was a bit distracting. Has anyone else noticed this?

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#44 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jul 14, 2005 9:21 pm

Don't recall specifically. There are patches of hissing here and there in various and sundry of these old Ozu films, though. I wouldn't imagine it's unique to your copy.

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#45 Post by King of Kong » Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:38 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Don't recall specifically. There are patches of hissing here and there in various and sundry of these old Ozu films, though. I wouldn't imagine it's unique to your copy.
Let's hope not. I had another look, and although there is some minor hissing throughout the picture, there's a relatively loud patch of it from about 74 to 77 minutes.

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#46 Post by obloquy » Mon Oct 17, 2005 1:20 am

I know I'm late to the discussion, but I didn't see anyone mention Noriko's illustration in defense of her marriage choice: she points out that she was looking for something but discovered it right under her nose. I agree with Mr. Kerpan and I don't think her character was resisting marriage itself at all; she was just looking.

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#47 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Oct 17, 2005 7:47 am

obloquy wrote:I know I'm late to the discussion
It's never too late (or too early) to discuss Ozu. ;~}

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#48 Post by feckless boy » Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:04 pm

Image
Image

It's very easy to remove unwanted subtitle text, adding is a whole different affair.

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Re: 240 Early Summer

#49 Post by dad1153 » Mon May 18, 2009 5:57 pm

Watched "Early Summer" over the weekend for the first time. After watching and loving "Late Spring" and "Tokyo Story" at first sight this middle chapter in the 'Noriko Trilogy' of Ozu films left me surprisingly cold and unmoved. At first I thought the movie came across as a sappy Japanese Douglas Silk-type melodrama, especially when Senji Ito's music soared in an attempt to extract emotion from scenes where none was present (IMO). That could be said of many Ozu movies but what separated "Tokyo Story" and "Late Spring" was that they transcended their melodramatic trappings to become tales of universal truth about humanity. "Early Summer" gave me a handful of memorable scenes/moments but nothing that gripped me as tightly as the other 'Noriko' narratives. I was marveled at Chishu Ryu's ability to interact with Setsuko Hara as adult brother and sister, respectively. He's pulled the same chameleon-like age/appearance change since 1942's "There Was A Father" (my first Ozu film) so I should not have been surprised. I loved Ichiro Sugai's elder parent grunting and giving us a fictitious origin to Chishu Ryu's own memorable grunts. The bratty children being little bastards about their damn toy train tracks and the older folks watching time/technology/society change with resigned acceptance (like when the elder Mamiya is stopped by a train crossing) were also classic Ozu motiffs. There were also moments of both intentional humor (Chishu coming out of nowhere from behind the sliding door = gold :P) and even some self-conscious teasing from Ozu himself (the backwards-tracking shot that promises a big reveal and delivers... nothing). But in the end I was unmoved by Noriko's tears (the opposite of the tears flowing from me after the plight in the two other 'Noriko' movies) and didn't care at all that her family had separated by the end of the movie. Not since my first viewing of "400 Blows" on Blu-ray has a movie from a director I admired had left me so cold and with a sense of 'is that it?' emptiness after seeing it.

So, after finishing "Early Spring" late Saturday night, I went to sleep and rewatched it again Sunday morning and then again Sunday night (with the Donald Richie commentary track on). For other renowned filmmakers I would have made a mental note to see the movie again at a later time but this is Yasujiro Ozu we're talking about. I owed it to the man's memory and skills to watch this movie one more time. Like "The Third Man," another classic movie that did nothing for me the first time but grew on me with repeat viewing, the beauty and charm of "Early Summer" eluded me on first viewing because of the many more characters, situations and plot developments to keep track of than in the more streamlined and less-crowded family canvas Ozu painted in his other 'Noriko' pictures (like the easier-to-grasp-and-follow "Late Spring"). With the plot already known and the relaxed pace of Ozu's leisurely-paced camera work in full swing (although compared with other Ozu movies the camera work here is the equivalent of Michael Bay doing wrap-around shots! 8-)) the strengths of "Early Summer" became more visible and accessible.

While still the "Return of the Jedi" equivalent to the 'Noriko Trilogy' I was suddenly moved when I realized that the absence of Noriko's income would mean the splintering of the Mamiya household (this key plot point eluded me completely the first time). It would have happened regardless of who Noriko chose to marry, but this income inequality (would the rich 40-something husband be able to better provide for her family?) colors my impression that Noriko's marriage decisions weren't exactly selfish. I'm still unsure if Noriko marries Kenkichi out of real affection or just to end her family's harassment to get married on her own terms. Unlike the other two 'Noriko' movies leading up to (and culminating with) a pathos-filled finale "Early Summer" to me consists of a series of little climaxes for all the characters (father hitting kid for kicking the bread, elder mother sad her grown son has scolded her, Noriko's married girlfriends ditching her single friends, Kentichi dropping the 'we're moving to Akai' bomb to her mother without warning, etc.) that lead to an expected but accepted ending to a flawed but enduring family structure that would be worth preserving (which is what the photograph scenes in the end are meant to remind us) if society's rules back then weren't so intolerant in their labeling of unmarried women as worthless. Noriko's tear-filled final scene still fails to move me (especially compared to the wedding dress scene in "Late Spring") but "Early Summer" is a very good Ozu movie in a filmography (and trilogy) featuring two other outstanding, far superior 'Noriko' pictures. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad!

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Re: 240 Early Summer

#50 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon May 18, 2009 9:53 pm

dad1153 wrote: "Early Summer" is a very good Ozu movie in a filmography (and trilogy) featuring two other outstanding, far superior 'Noriko' pictures. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad!
Maybe you will eventually come to realize that this is, in fact, the equal of the others.

This, more than the others, is more focused on the formation of new family relationships than on the dissolution (or weakening) of old ones. In this case, Noriko is both modern AND old-fashioned. She makes her own choice -- but is marrying into another family (not making a simple love match). She has far more affection for her kind-hearted (if chatty) future mother-in-law than for her rather catty mother and her disengaged father. And she knows and trusts her future husband.

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