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One of the most powerful of Yasujiro Ozu’s family portraits, Late Spring (Banshun) tells the story of a widowed father who feels compelled to marry off his beloved only daughter. Eminent Ozu players Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara command this poignant tale of love and loss in postwar Japan, which remains as potent today as ever—and a strong justification for its maker’s inclusion in the pantheon of cinema’s greatest directors.
For more about Late Spring and the Late Spring Blu-ray release, see the Late Spring Blu-ray Review
Starring: Chishû Ryû, Setsuko Hara, Yumeji Tsukioka
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
» See full cast & crew
Late Spring Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 14, 2012
Winner of Best Film Award at the Kinema Junpo Awards as well as Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay Awards at the Mainichi Film Concours, Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's "Banshun" a.k.a "Late Spring" (1949) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary by associate professor Richard Pena and director Wim Wenders' documentary film "Tokyo-ga" (1985). In Japanese, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring chronicles the seemingly simple relationship between a widowed father, Mr. Somiya (Chishu Ryu), and his only daughter, Noriko (Setsuko Hara). Both of them miss Mrs. Somiya and occasionally mention her name but are completely satisfied with their lives.
Things change when Mr. Somiya's sister, Masa (Haruko Sugimura), mentions that it is time for Noriko to get married. When Mr. Somiya agrees, she recommends that he speaks with his assistant, Hattori (Jun Usami), a serious man from a respectable family, whom Noriko apparently likes.
Shortly after, Mr. Somiya casually asks Noriko if she might be interested in marrying Hattori. The question surprises Noriko, but she admits that she does indeed like Hattori – even though he isn't available, because he is already engaged to another girl. The news immediately reaches Masa, who vows to 'help' Noriko find a proper husband.
In the days that follow, Noriko realizes that her father's question was a lot more serious than she had initially thought. This upsets her because she is perfectly happy with the way things are – being single and taking care of him. Noriko also becomes frustrated with Masa, who continues to insist before Mr. Somiya that she absolutely must get married as soon as possible.
Things become even more complicated when Masa introduces Mr. Somiya to Mrs. Miwa (Kuniko Miyake), an elegant young widow, whom she believes will take good care of the house and Mr. Somiya after Noriko leaves. Much to Noriko's disappointment, Mr. Somiya enthusiastically greets the widow and then warms up to the idea of having a second wife.
Realizing that her father has effectively sided with Masa, Noriko agrees to marry a man whom everyone around her believes is a good match for her.
Late Spring is a slow and methodical film that captures the essence of existing. There are highs and lows in the relationship between Noriko and Mr. Somiya, but also a steady rhythm. There is constant movement of ideas and thoughts, but they appear to be part of something a lot bigger, a way of existing that has been predetermined.
The beauty of the film lies in its simplicity. One does not need to be familiar with Japanese customs and culture to understand the nature of the dilemmas Noriko and Mr. Somiya face – they are universal, part of the cycles of life all people experience. Some of the very best scenes in the film are the ones where Ozu's camera simply studies Noriko and Mr. Somiya's faces. They don't utter a single word but one could easily tell exactly how they feel and exactly what is going on in their minds.
The film is set during the postwar period while Japan is still looking for a new identity. Coca-Cola and American films are already part of everyday life and some perceptions about right and wrong have evolved, but life itself has not changed.
Ryu and Hara's performances are flawless – in the film he is a father and she is his daughter. After the wedding, he returns home alone, sits on the floor and quietly begins to peel an apple. Then, overwhelmed by grief, he suddenly stops. Every father who has married a daughter would know exactly how he feels. This is pure cinema.
Note: In 1950, Late Spring won Best Film Award at the Kinema Junpo Awards as well as Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Setsuko Hara), and Best Screenplay (Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda) Awards at the Mainichi Film Concours.
Late Spring Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain master positive and a 35mm theatrical print. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS while Image System's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, jitter, and flicker.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Colorist: Osamu Iseki/Imagica Corp., Tokyo."
There are light scratches and small damage marks throughout the entire film. Many more tiny flecks and splices, however, have been removed. There are a few frame skips as well, but overall there are no serious stability issues. Detail is pleasing, especially during close-ups that are free of source damage. Clarity occasionally fluctuates, but this is due to the fact that two different sources were used to strike the high-definition transfer, not because there are any specific technical anomalies. There are no traces of post-production sharpening and severe denoising either; Criterion only appear to have carefully elevated contrast levels and boosted black levels a bit. Finally, edge flicker is not a serious issue of concern. All in all, considering the source limitations the film's transition to Blu-ray is indeed most pleasing. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Late Spring Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the film's optical track. Viewers may notice significant distortion inherent in the original surviving soundtrack materials. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
Generally speaking, the dialog is crisp and stable, but, as mentioned in the quoted text above, there are a few minor distortions that have been inherited from the soundtrack materials. None of them, however, dramatically affect the viewing experience. In fact, most viewers will likely miss them unless they are told exactly where to expect them. The English translation is very good.
Late Spring Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Late Spring Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Late Spring is a simple yet profoundly moving film about an aging father and his daughter directed by one of Cinema's greatest masters, Yasujiro Ozu. While some of the Japanese director's films have already been released on Blu-ray outside of North America, Late Spring is the first one to be made available domestically. Do not miss it. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Late Spring Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in April: Frampton, Ozu, Young, Ashby, Monicelli - January 13, 2012
The Criterion Collection has posted their full roster of Blu-ray releases for April 2012. Titles include the A Hollis Frampton Odyssey short film collection, Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring, Robert M. Young's ¡Alambrista!, Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude, and Mario Monicelli's ...
Late Spring Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
Late Spring Blu-ray Screenshots
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