An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 23, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“An Autumn Afternoon” is a fantastic film that shows us another perspective of a modern Japanese family towards marriage. An enjoyable final film by legendary director Yasujiro Ozu!
Image courtesy of © 1962 Shochiku Co. Ltd. 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446
YEAR OF FILM: 1962
DURATION: 113 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Color, Japanese Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2015
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Screenplay by Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu
Produced by Shizuo Yamanouchi
Music by Takanobu Saito
Cinematography by Yuharu Atsuta
Edited by Yoshiyasu Hamamura
Production Design by Minoru Kanekatsu
Art Direction by Tatsuo Hamada, Shigeo Ogiwara
Costume Design by Yuji Nagashima
Chishu Ryu as Shuhei Hirayama
Shima Iwashita as Michiko Hirayama
Keiji Sada as Koichi
Mariko Okada as Akiko
Teruo Yoshida as Yutaka Miura
Noriko Maki as Fusako Taguchi
Shin’ichiro Mikami as Kazuo
Nobuo Nakamura as Shuzo Kawai
The final film from Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story) was also his last masterpiece, a gently heartbreaking story about a man’s dignifed resignation to life’s shifting currents and society’s modernization. Though widower Shuhei (frequent Ozu leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure from their home. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master’s films, An Autumn Afternoon is one of cinema’s fondest farewells.
In 1962, director Yasujiro Ozu directed his final film “An Autumn Afternoon”.
With goals to direct more films the following year, unfortunately it was not meant to be as Yasujiro Ozu would die of cancer on his 60th birthday.
And so his final film, “An Autumn Afternoon”, known in Japan as “Sanma no Aji” (The Taste of Mackerel) would be his last film. His simplest film but a film that fans of Ozu’s work can draw comparisons to “Late Spring”.
Yasujiro Ozu is one of the world’s beloved directors. Having made many films since the 1920′s up to his final film “An Autumn Afternoon” in 1962, his works have been appreciated by viewers and critics for his family comedies but also his serious family storylines such as “Early Spring”, “Early Summer, “Tokyo Story”, “Floating Weeds”, “The End of Summer” (to name a few).
The Criterion Collection has been one of the major forces in America of bringing Ozu’s films stateside and now “An Autumn Afternoon” has received the HD treatment on Blu-ray.
The film would star Chishu Ryu (who would star in other Ozu films such as “Early Summer”, “Tokyo Story”, “Late Spring” and the popular “Tora-san” films of the ’70s and ’80s), Shima Iwashita (“Harakiri”,”Ballad of Orin”);, Keiji Sada (“Good Morning”, “The Human Condition I: No Greater Love”, “Late Autumn”), Mariko Okada (“Akitsu Springs”, “Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto”, “Late Autumn”), Teruo Yoshida, Noriko Maki, Shin’ichiro Mikami, Nobuo Nakamura and more.
“An Autumn Afternoon” revolves around a family, Shuhei Hirayama (portrayed by Chisha Ryu) is a widower with a a 32-year-old married son named Koichi (portrayed by Keiji Sada) and his two unmarried children: 24-year-old Michiko (portrayed by Shima Iwashita) and 21-year-old son Kazuo (portrayed by Shin’ichiro Mikami).
Shuhei’s classmates, Kawai (portrayed by Nobuo Nakamura), Horie (portrayed by Ryuji Kita), Sugai (portrayed by Tsuzai Sugawara), Watanabe (portrayed by Masao Oda) and Nakanishi, often meet at a restaurant known was Wakamatsu which is owned by Sugai and have drinks, get drunk and enjoy each other’s conversations.
As the men are taking back their drunken friend Sakuma, they learn that their friend is trying to survive by running a noodle restaurant but also learning that his middle-aged daughter Tomako (portrayed by Haruko Sugimura) waited too long to get married and is now too old.
Often, Shuhei’s friends talk about how it’s important for Shuhei to consider having his daughter Michiko married off to a good man before it’s too late. But as Shuhei tries to bring up the topic with his daughter, she has not intention of wanting to get married but most importantly, she tells her father that he and Kazuo depend on her and can’t get married.
Meanwhile, we get to see a glimpse of the marriage between Koichi and his wife Akiko (portrayed by Mariko Okada) and the husband and wife dynamics between the two.
Knowing that it’s important for his daughter to get married and see how other daughters of his friends who didn’t get married have turned out, will Shuhei arrange for his daughter to marry or not?
“An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality features better clarity compared to the previous Criterion Collection DVD release. The picture quality features much better colors and better image stability. Also, there is a fine layer of grain throughout the entire film.
According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at IMAGICA Corp. and IMAGICA West Corp. in Tokyo, where the film was restored in 2K resolution.”
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for audio, “An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446” is presented in Japanese LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue and music is clear with no signs of any hiss or crackling.
According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monoraul soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”
“An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by film scholar David Bordwell.
- Yasujiro Ozu and the Taste of Sake – (14:40) Interviews with film critics Michel Ciment, George PErec.
- Trailer – Featuring two 3-4 minute theatrical trailers for “An Autumn Afternoon”.
“An Autumn Afternoon – The Criterion Collection #446” comes with a six-page insert with the essay “A Fond Farewell” by Geoff Andrew and “Ozu’s Diaries” by Donald Richie.
As a person who loves and enjoys Yasujiro Ozu films, “An Autumn Afternoon” may be one of Ozu’s simplest films but it has always been a favorite film of his because of the humor but also how it deals with a modern Japanese family, and a father knowing that his 24-year-old daughter must get married and leave home, despite knowing in his heart, how much his daughter Michiko has done so much for him.
We have seen how Chishu Ryu’s character was in “Late Spring” as a professor who had lost his wife but doesn’t want to lose his only child but must find a way to push his daughter in considering marriage.
With “Autumn Afternoon”, while Chishu’s character is similar in a way that he has not put great pressure on his daughter Michiko, because she has done so much for him and her younger brother Kazuo, the primary difference between both films is seeing for himself, how women were who missed the boat of getting married and now they are literally older women living at home, continuing to take care of their parents because they missed out on marriage.
This is not what the character Shuhei Yamamura wants for his daughter. He wants her to be happy, but he must be insistent for her to get married. Unlike “Late Spring”, Michiko relents and listens to her father.
So, it’s an interesting juxtaposition to see how both Chishu Ryu’s characters does in order to get his daughters married. “Late Spring” took a bit of acting on the father’s part, but for “An Autumn Afternoon”, it’s a different perspective on a father and his role and responsibilities to make sure his daughter finds a good husband.
Where as previous films had a clash of traditional Japanese culture with modern Japanese culture, “An Autumn Afternoon” focuses on the modern, especially when the film switches to Koichi and his wife Akiko. Lying and borrowing money from his father, but the intention is to buy McGregor golf clubs. Akiko also makes sure that she has her voice in the matter, where most wives are seen as silent, Akiko will speak her mind towards her husband which actually makes their scenes quite interesting as she is not afraid to tell her husband how she feels and what she expects him to do. And there is no doubt a shift on how a woman, especially a married woman is showcased in an Ozu film as the women have a sort of independence to them.
As “An Autumn Afternoon” will be an introduction or continuance and appreciate for Ozu’s work for those viewing Criterion Collection films primarily on Blu-ray, another fascination that I have towards Ozu films is his camera technique, using low angle shots and also using non-traditional cinematic methods by avoiding panning, tracking and crane shots. It’s what separates Ozu from Kurosawa and other Japanese filmmakers is how he frames his characters and features them during a diaogue-driven scene.
And as mentioned, the efficacy of this film relies on its characters. From the relationship between family members or the bickering between a husband and wife, it’s one thing to have a talented Chishu Ryu to play the father, but there are a lot of wonderful performances from the cast seen throughout the film. Characters that bring this enjoyable film to life!
As for the Blu-ray release of “An Autumn Afternoon”, this is a gorgeous 4K restoration of the film. The film looks wonderful in HD and the lossless audio soundtrack is also crystal clear without the hiss or crackle! You also get a few special features included on this Blu-ray release, including David Borwell’s insightful audio commentary.
Overall, “An Autumn Afternoon” is a fantastic film that shows us another perspective of a modern Japanese family towards marriage. An enjoyable final film by legendary director Yasujiro Ozu!
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