Every time I see an Ozu film, I tell myself I need to see more. They are always very good, and sometimes much better than that, but I've only seen Late Spring, An Autumn Afternoon, and the masterpiece Tokyo Story. Now I add Early Summer to that list, and once again, Ozu has won me over. About Late Spring and its transcendent star, Setsuko Hara, I once wrote:
Nothing Ozu does is obvious. His camera style is usually static, and you notice, because it is unusual, but you quickly adjust to the calm nature of what you see. The characters exhibit a resignation about life, at times even happiness at their lives, but there is nothing ostentatious. The legendary Setsuko Hara conveys so much with the expressions on her face. Her smiles are captivating, but subtle movement suggest something behind the happiness. It is disconcerting, in fact, when what she says seems at odds with her smile ... at those times, she no longer seems happy but rather seems polite, as if the smiles are expected of her.
I feel like I have little to add to this. Hara is so wonderful ... I find her irresistible. Ozu's quiet presentation is filled with the small things in life that are instantly recognizable, and he allows his actors to show what is beneath their seemingly placid demeanor in a way that is quite trusting of their work (reflected in the frequent close-ups Ozu relies on). In Early Summer, Hariko (Hara) is 28 and unmarried; her family thinks it's time to get a husband, and they work at it without really consulting Hariko. But she wants to choose for herself, and with that, I've told you the basic plot. You don't really go to Ozu for plot, though. Instead, you find serious depth beneath the surface of his characters, and for me, at least through four movies, it never gets old. Tokyo Story is the place to start, but really any film will do. #448 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.