Date: Now until 28 February 2010
Venue: BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, South Bank, Waterloo, London SE1 8XT
Tickets: 020 7928 3232
Celebrating Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, the BFI will release two of the Japanese master’s greatest films, Tokyo Story and Late Autumn, in cinemas nationwide in January 2010.
Throughout January and February there will be a complete retrospective of Ozu’s work at BFI Southbank.
The film that made Ozu's reputation in the west (it was also a big hit in Japan) is plotted a little more schematically than most of his masterpieces but is nonetheless one of his most emotionally piercing films. An elderly couple leave their rural home in Onomichi to visit their married children in Tokyo. But their son and daughter are too preoccupied with their own domestic affairs to have much time for them (they pack them off to the Atami hot springs to get them out of the way), and it's only the widow of their elder son who is truly hospitable and welcoming. With Ozu's formal strategies now in full play, the film explores the spaces between what's said and what cannot be said, finessing a keen sense of life's disappointments. But the film's emotional truths are underpinned by a real topicality: this is also a sketch of social and moral changes in defeated, post-war Japan.
Made near the end of his life, Late Autumn is one of Ozu’s most bittersweet movies, a half-comic drama about parenthood, 'difficult' children and marriage prospects. The radiant Setsuko Hara, her sensuality coming into play only in the closing scenes, plays Tokyo widow Akiko, whose grown-up daughter Ayako seems determined to stay single. The film’s plots, full of Ozu’s characteristic echoes and symmetries, turn on the efforts of various well- meaning friends of the family to get both women married. Three male friends (two businessmen and an academic) first target Ayako and then her mother; a woman friend of Ayako’s initially disapproves of their meddling but later agrees to help them. Ayako gets the wrong idea that her mother plans to remarry, and mother and daughter quarrel. There are further droll misunderstandings, most of them caused by the child-like adult men, who have 'problem' children of their own. Ozu's visual style and patterning was never more playful.