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An Autumn Afternoon(1962)
The final film from Yasujiro Ozu 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.
For more about An Autumn Afternoon and the An Autumn Afternoon Blu-ray release, see An Autumn Afternoon Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 1, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Writers: Kôgo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu
Starring: Chishû Ryû, Shima Iwashita, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Teruo Yoshida, Noriko Maki
» See full cast & crew
An Autumn Afternoon Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 1, 2011
Yasujirô Ozu's "Sanma no aji" a.k.a. "An Autumn Afternoon" (1962) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of the British Film Institute. The only extra on this release is Yasujiro Ozu's early film "A Hen in the Wind" (1948). In Japanese, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Yasujiro Ozu's last film, An Autumn Afternoon, tells the story of a middle-class Japanese family facing a difficult dilemma. The head of the family, Mr. Hirayama (Chishu Ryu, Tokyo Story, Late Autumn), is a widower who works hard and spends most of his free time with his married friends. They have a favorite bar whose owner treats them well.
Mr. Hirayama lives with his son, Kazuo (Shinichirô Mikami, Pale Flower, Mankiller), and 24-year-old daughter, Michiko (Shima Iwashita, Ballad of Orin, Harakiri). Koichi (Keiji Sada, Equinox Flower / There Was a Father, Good Morning), Mr. Hirayama's eldest son, is married to Akiko (Mariko Okada, Banana, This Year's Love), but hasn't become a father yet.
During a night out in the city, Mr. Hirayama is told by one of his friends that he should start thinking about finding Michiko a husband. A couple of days later, Mr. Hirayama meets Koichi and asks whether he also believes that it is time for his sister to get married.
Even though he does not want to see his father living alone, Koichi agrees that it is a good idea to see Michiko settle down. He even offers to ask one of his colleagues, a well educated young man from a respectable family, whether he might be interested in Michiko. When the two meet, however, the man confesses to him that even though he likes Michiko he has already made plans to marry a different girl.
Eventually, Mr. Hirayama and Koichi approach Michiko and reveal to her that they want to see her have a family of her own. Michiko is surprised and saddened by her father's sudden desire to see her become a housewife – and incredibly disappointed to hear that Koichi's colleague is no longer available. Shortly after, she agrees to meet an older bachelor who has been enthusiastically recommended to Mr. Hirayama by one of his best friends.
The plot description cannot possibly reveal how incredibly entertaining the film is. It is enormously sad yet absolutely hilarious, at times cruel yet remarkably elegant. Its characters are quiet and reserved people but their decisions are often utterly unpredictable.
Like most of Ozu's films, An Autumn Afternoon chronicles interesting transformations. After years of living a quiet life, the aging Mr. Hirayama has started drinking and drifting away from his family. Though he does not admit it in front of his friends, there are days when he feels incredibly lonely. He does not want Michiko to ever experience what he is going through, which she most certainly will if she remains single, which is why he and Koichi begin looking around to get her a good husband.
Koichi has also started realizing that he can no longer make important decisions alone, such as whether his family can afford an expensive set of golf clubs. Naturally, he misses the good old days when his wife would never even think about questioning him.
Finally, Michiko would rather spend the rest of her life with a man she likes, but she also realizes that it is better to be married and respected than be single and try to make ends meet on her own.
The bigger story the film tells is that of a country undergoing a massive transformation while Mr. Hirayama's generation struggles to adapt to the changes. There is a desire to move forward and an understanding shared by most that the new, meaning different things to different people, is indeed better, but also plenty of nostalgia for the old.
An Autumn Afternoon Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Yasujiro Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of the BFI.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"An Autumn Afternoon was transferred and restored in High Definition from the best available film elements. Master materials have been made available by The Criterion Collection. Further colour grading and picture restoration was completed by the BFI."
An Autumn Afternoon is one of the more dated looking Ozu films to appear on Blu-ray. Though detail is quite good, even during the darker bar scenes, light blocking, halo-effects and edge-enhancement are at times easy to spot (take a look at screencapture #16). Early into the film, there are also some small stability issues, mostly in the lower left and right corners of the image frame. This being said, the high-definition transfer has not been excessively filtered, and grain is present throughout the entire film. Contrast and clarity are relatively good. Color-reproduction is also convincing, though there are random small pulsations that occasionally pop up here and there (the bigger your screen is, the easier it will be for you to notice them). Finally, I noticed some minor flecks, even a few scratches, but no large debris, cuts, or damage marks. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
An Autumn Afternoon Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese LPCM 2.0. For the record, the BFI have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
There are no serious technical issues to report in this review. Predictably, the Japanese LPCM 2.0 track has a limited dynamic amplitude, but the dialog is stable, clean, crisp, and easy to follow. I also did not detect any disturbing audio distortions, pops, cracks, hissings or dropouts. The English translation is excellent.
An Autumn Afternoon Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
An Autumn Afternoon Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Yasujiro Ozu's last film, An Autumn Afternoon, may well be his most elegant film. It tells a simple but moving story that anyone can relate to. The Blu-ray release herein reviewed, courtesy of the BFI, looks and sounds good. If you reside in a region-A territory and wish to add it to your collection, please keep in mind that it is Region-B "locked". RECOMMENDED.
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