Kenji is a small thief who likes drinking and fighting. When he falls in love with sweet and simple Yazue, and she finds out what kind of guy he really is, she leaves him 'until he becomes ... See full summary »
Uneven, lacks focus, but still (generally) a good film
"Early Spring", made in 1956 after the well-loved "Tokyo Story" (1953), is directed by Ozu after a hiatus of about three years from his last work. It remains Ozu's longest extant work, at 144 minutes. The film essentially explores two themes, the dreary lives of salaried office workers (touched upon before in, say, "I Was Born, but...") and also the impact of an affair on a marriage. The office worker in question is Shoji Sugiyama, who has a wife Masako and who remains childless - their only son died years ago before the film starts. Owing partly to boredom, he succumbs to the flirtations of an office typist Kaneko, nicknamed "Goldfish". The film goes on to show what ensues with the affair and Shoji with his wife.
It's hard to criticize any Ozu, especially since he is perhaps amongst the most consistent directors (in that he hardly makes a bad film). "Early Spring" is not a bad film, but at 144 minutes, it is too long, and like a fellow IMDb reviewer has said, a good 20 minutes can be cut from it without affecting the story much. The film also lacks focus: the scenes of Shoji's war comrades add little to the plot or themes except for running time, and parts of the film also seems not to be tied together as well as in other Ozu films. Thus I would call "Early Spring" the least of Ozu's films in the post-Late Spring (1949) era. Maybe Ozu is getting a little rusty because of the hiatus he had, or maybe it was just the screenplay, which doesn't seem as polished or as pointed as it should be.
Nonetheless "Early Spring" remains a good film. There are parts of the film which resonates still in memory, especially the ending, which is as well done as any in the Ozu oeuvre. Although Ozu's examination of the life a salaried working man doesn't reach the depths of, say, Kurosawa's "Ikiru", this is hardly a film that can be ignored. And that says a lot about Ozu's consistency as a world-class director.
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