color 93 min.
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
CLV: $49.95 - available
1 disc, catalog # CC1523L
VHS: available from Home Vision Cinema
Ohayo is the wild card in Yasujiro Ozu's career, the film that
looks least like all his others, and one of the few in which he sees the
world through children's eyes rather than those of an old man.
For many years, Ozu's films were rarely seen outside Japan. Their
minimal narratives and idiosyncratic style resembled few other films, and
distributors feared they were "too Japanese" for international audiences.
During the 1950s and 1960s, most of his work was centered around the same
motif: the attempt by an aging parent to marry off a dutiful daughter so
that she could begin to live her own life. Donald Richie characterizes
their point of view as "sympathetic sadness", the Japanese concept of mono
no aware; the perspective of a weary, relaxed, even disappointed observer,
perhaps someone approaching death.
But with Ohayo, Yasujiro Ozu visits suburbia and comes back a
happier person. He plunks us down into a new Japan, a bright, peppy place
where American cultural influences have seeped into everyday life. The plot
revolves around the ups and downs of suburban middle-class life in a small
subdivision, where tiny houses are surrounded by white picket fences and
filled with colorful furniture and appliances. Housewives bounce between
homes, exchanging food, drink, and sometimes cruel gossip. Kids walk in and
out of their neighbors' houses to watch sumo wrestling on TV. TV, in fact,
is really at the center of the story. Mr. Hayashi won't buy a set, worrying
that "TV will produce 100 million idiots." Desperately wanting one, the
Hayashi children first practice passive resistance, then escalate to
screaming and yelling, and finally go on a silence strike.
In fact, though Ohayo is nominally a remake of his 1932 film I Was
Born, But..., Ohayo sometimes feels remarkably like American TV sitcoms of
the same period (except for the recurrent flatulence gags). It's full of
stock characters: Mr. Hayashi, the older, distracted father (played by
Chishu Ryu, said to be Ozu's alter ego, who's present in most of his
films); an avuncular bachelor, in love with the children's aunt; gossipy
neighbors, who cause great pain to Mrs. Hayashi over a matter of missing
club dues; and a shameless grandmother, who can't be intimidated by
impatient relatives or sinister door-to-door salesmen. Best of all are the
Bohemian neighbors, who lounge around in pajamas during the day, have
posters for The Defiant Ones on their wall, and truck through the alleys
But Ozu's keenest critique is directed towards Japanese culture.
Though most of his films are built around the banal, ordinary dialogue of
daily life, here he criticizes adults' propensity for meaningless,
space-filling conversations, the small talk that "acts as a lubricant in
this world." It's the emptiness of adult chatter that turns the young TV
wanna-bes into social critics. They don't want to grow up into a world of
meaningless rituals, a world where two twentysomethings in love can't get
beyond mannered talk about the weather.
Ozu's films are meditative and relaxed, but never boring. They
reveal themselves slowly and obliquely, through conversation, elegantly
minimal camera work, beautifully composed establishing shots and meticulous
sound design. His low-mounted camera puts us into eye contact with his
characters, and as we begin to understand their lives, we're invited to be
our own philosophers, too. I like to think that his mix of minimalism,
humor and everyday life will outlast today's synthetic, effects-driven
cinema, and maybe even prefigure the cinema of the future.
Rick Prelinger is an archivist and filmmaker in NYC.
He is currently directing Danger Lurks, an all-archival narrative feature film.
Isamu Masahiko Shimazu
Minoru Koji Shidara
Tamiko Kuniko Miyake
Setsuko Arita Yoshiko Kuga
Keitaro Hayashi Chishu Ryu
Kikue Haroguchi Haruko Sugimura
Director Yasujiro Ozu
Screenplay Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Noda
Cinematography Yuharu Atsuta
Music Toshiro Mayuzumi
Editing Yoshiyasu Hamamura
About the transfer
Good Morning is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This new
digital transfer was created from a
composite 35mm low contrast print.