In An Autumn Afternoon, director Ozu has a peculiar approach to how he presents his cast delivering dialogue. They stare just off camera and speak calmly, gently, no matter what. Ozu and photographer Atsuta Yûharu are incredibly precise with the composition; while Hamamura Yoshiyasu’s editing needs that precision, it also creates a distance. And Autumn is a character study, so it having such a definite, consistent distance is a little strange.
Especially when Saitô Takanobu’s music is always playful, always inviting.
Ozu presents a couple hours of these characters’ lives–during what could be a momentous occasion, but he and co-writer Noda Kôgo skip it–and lets the viewer get to know them. The way Ozu shoots the dialogue, the way he shoots medium shots–never from the character’s perspective, always from something impossible as a participant–the viewer is intrusive. But that intrusiveness is never acknowledged.
An Autumn Afternoon is a film constructed to keep the viewer aloof while never acknowledging there can be a viewer; all while the music and Kanekatsu Minoru’s gorgeous production design invites the viewer into the film. Ozu doesn’t even let himself get excited about his accomplishment in that aloofness. He’s always focused on the characters.
It’s like he can’t be bothered with the idea anyone’s going to watch Autumn.
All the acting is strong, especially Ryû Chishû in the difficult lead role, Okada Mariko as his daughter-in-law and Tôno Eijirô as his old schoolteacher.
An Autumn Afternoon is hostilely brilliant.
Directed by Ozu Yasujirô; written by Noda Kôgo and Ozu; director of photography, Atsuta Yûharu; edited by Hamamura Yoshiyasu; music by Saitô Takanobu; production designer, Kanekatsu Minoru; produced by Yamanouchi Shizuou; released by Shochiku Company.
Starring Ryû Chishû (Hirayama), Iwashita Shima (Michiko), Sada Keiji (Koichi), Okada Mariko (Akiko), Nakamura Nobuo (Kawai), Kita Ryûji (Horie), Mikamo Shin’ichirô (Kazuo) and Tôno Eijirô (The Gourd).