Criterion combines five films from the prolific Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. In “Early Spring” (1956, 145 minutes) a disillusioned salaryman (Ikebe) has an illicit affair with an office colleague (Kishi). In “Tokyo Twilight” (1957, 141 minutes) two sisters (Hara and Arima) try to shield their loving father (Ryu) from an unhappy marriage and an unwanted pregnancy. “Equinox Flower” (1958, 118 minutes) explores a generational rift between an old-fashioned father (Saburi) and his progressive daughter (Arima). In “Late Autumn” (1960, 129 minutes) a widowed mother (Hara) encourages her daughter (Tsukasa) to marry even if this means she will be left alone. In “The End of Summer” (1961, 103 minutes) an aging widower (Nakamura) takes up with a former mistress (Naniwa), despite the disapproval of his large, opinionated family.
These five distinct dramas share themes and regular cast members, lending a consistency and fluidity to Ozu’s remarkable late career work. Together with frequent co-writer Kogo Noda, the director continues to plumb the depths of the lives of ordinary people and their aspirations, showing particular interest in the communication (or lack thereof) between the generations. His long, unbroken shots and iconic “tatami mat” camera work intensify the observational nature of his cinema. Characters often seem to address one another via the lens, involving the viewer in the dialogue. Japanese society in the post-war years comes into focus, especially in the poignant “Early Spring”, as the main character struggles with his identity. The gradual transition from Japanese tradition to modern-day values informs “Equinox Flower”, Ozu’s first color film, bursting with gorgeously composed frames. Viewed as a whole or as separate entities, this compendium showcases a master still at his peak.