In Early Spring, Ozu examines life in postwar Japan through the eyes of a young salaryman, dissatisfied with career and marriage, who begins an affair with a flirtatious co-worker.
“Ozu’s career was one of refinement: he constantely limited his technique, subject matter, and editorial comment. Early in his career (Ozu made fifty-four films over thirty-five years, from 1927 to 1962) he filmed the romantic and social themes insisted upon by Japanese producers, but later in life, particularly after the Second World War, Ozu limited himself to the shomin genre, and within the shomin-geki to certain forms of conflict and resolution.”
“Although I hadn’t made a white-collar story for a long time, I wanted to show the life of a man with such a job - his happiness over graduation and finally becoming a member of society, his hopes for the future gradually dissolving, his realizing that, even though he has worked for years, he has accomplished nothing. By showing this life over a period of time I wanted to bring out what you might call the pathos of such a life. It is the longest of my postwar films, but I tried to avoid anything that would be dramatic and to collect only casual scenes of everyday life, hoping in doing so that the audience would feel the sadness of this kind of life.”
“By showing us this single two-hour period of the morning in such a laconic and detached manner, with nothing at all irregular or dramatic occurring along the way, Ozu successfully evokes at the very beginning of his pictures one of his major themes: the boredom and meaninglessness of such a life.”
“‘In every Ozu film,’ Richie writes, ‘the whole world exists in one family. The ends of the earth are no more distant than outside the house.’ In his films, such as Early Spring, the office “family” replaces the household family unit. Ozu focusses on the tensions between the home and the office, the parent and the child, which are extensions of the tensions between old and new Japan, between tradition and Westernization, and - ulitmately - between man and nature.”
“Ozu, it is said, considers the preparation of the script to be the most important part of film-making, and will spend up to a year with his faithful collaborator, Kogo Noda, on the elaboration of a script. Even judging mainly by the subtitles, it is obvious that the dialogue is not only rich and probing but capitally important, but it would be a mistake to suggest that the script takes prededence over the mise en scène: they are, in the fullest sense of the word, complementary.”
“Ozu’s often gratuitous dollies generated a feeling of strangeness and mystery that deepened his films. The most notable example of this occurs in Early Spring, the last film to use traveling shots. Several times one is in an empty corridor in the office building where the characters work. At times the camera is stationary, at times it creeps forward. The effect is disquieting. In this world of no camera movement which Ozu has established, the slightest movement of the camera calls attention to itself. And in this film we have no idea why the camera is moved. Nothing is to be gained by it; indeed, nothing is in the scene, it is just an empty corridor. Because of the rigid, immobile context, however, the effect is disquieting, mysterious.”
“As to Mr. Ozu’s way of direction, he had made up the complete picture in his head before he went on the set, so that all we actors had to do was to follow his directions, from the way we lifted and dropped our arms to the way we blinked our eyes. We didn't had to worry about our acting at all. In a sense, we felt quite at home when we were playing in his pictures. Even if I didn't know what I was doing and how those shots would be connected in the end, when I looked at the first screening I was often surprised to find my performance far better than I had expected. He paid attention not only to the actors’ perfomances but also the stage settings and properties, and sometimes even painted appropriate pictures on the sliding doors used for the set. Therefore, what was called Mr. Ozu’s production was, I think, the film produced by himself.”
“Of course, his complete control of acting is not unique. Bresson and Sergei Eisenstein come prominently to mind. But where Bresson demands non-acting from non-actors and Eisenstein demanded the most aching positions from his actors to achieve magnificent pictoral compositions, Ozu achieved a naturalness and serenity with his actors, consistant with the other elements of his technique. The subtlety of the acting demanded by Ozu rivals that of the acting in a Noh play. In a Noh play stillness does not represent immobility but a perfect balance of opposing forces. Passionate weeping and grief, for instance, are represented by raising very slowly one stiff hand to within some inches of the eyes, and as slowly lowering it.”
- 1. Paul Schrader,Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 18.
- 2. Yasujiro Ozu quoted in Donald Richie, Ozu: His Life and Films (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), 240.
- 3. Donald Richie, Ozu: His Life and Films (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977),167.
- 4. Paul Schrader,Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 19.
- 5. Tom Milne, “Flavour of Green Tea over Rice,” Sight and Sound vol. 32, 1963, nr. 4 (1963), 183.
- 6. Donald Richie, Ozu: His Life and Films (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), 113.
- 7. Chishu Ryu, “Yasujiro Ozu,” Sight and Sound vol. 33, 1964, nr. 2 (1964), 92.
- 8. Marvin Zeman, “The Serene Poet of Japanese Cinema: The Zen Artistry of Yasujiro Ozu,” The Film Journal vol. 1, 1972, nr. 3-4 (1972).