Ozu's wartime solution to family dysfunction: let's all go to China!
Ozu enters William Wyler terrain with a somber upscale family drama about a mother and daughter who are shuttled in unwelcome fashion from one family member's home to another following the death of the family patriarch. The thematic elements of displacement within a family unit anticipate TOKYO STORY -- there's even a bedtime scene between the mother and daughter that echoes one in the later film. There's a startling lack of music in this film, esp. during Ozu's normally music-filled transitional shots, that contribute to an overall sense of tense unease that touches on what might have been the general wartime state of mind among Japanese at that time. The war makes a subtle appearance in the form of the youngest son who offers to take the unwanted family members with him to settle in China -- a moment which might be aligned with Imperialist propaganda, though in a fascinating way: the Chinese "frontier" seems presented as a place where Japanese society can escape its social hypocrisies and begin anew.
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