Ozu's negative take on the "corporatization" of private life
Soshun aka Early Spring (Yasujiro OZU, 1956)
This was made after a more than two-year gap following his preceding film, "Tokyo Story" (during which period he spent a lot of time working on a film that was to be directed by Kinuyo Tanaka -- which had become bogged down by all sorts of business politics). Ozu re-visits the world of the young "salaryman" for the first time since the 30s -- and doesn't particularly like what he finds. Ozu looks at the corrosive impact of the transition to a corporation-centered existence on white collar working men.
Shoji Sugiyama (Ryo IKEBE) and Masako (Ckikage AWASHIMA) have been married around 7 or 8 years, but are childless (their only son having died several years earlier). Shoji has shifted his focus to his career and pretty much disregards his wife (or at least takes her very much for granted). After Shoji becomes involved in dalliance with a co-worker, Chiyo, better known as "Goldfish" (Keiko Kishi), Masako decides she's had enough...
This film is one of Ozu's most earnest. While there are some touches of humor (for instance, Shoji's reunion with his army buddies, after which he is followed home by two of them), the overall tone is serious. Kumeko Urabe provides some earthy practicality as Masako's mother (now a noodle shop vendor -- unclear what she did prior to her husband's death years before) and Chishu Ryu (as Shoji's mentor, in business exile in the boondocks -- but not entirely regretting it) provides quasi-paternal guidance.
This film teaches a message Japan largely ignored, business relationships are not an adequate substitute for family ties. With the recent recognition (in Japan) of the phenomenon of "death by overwork", the message of the film might be considered especially timely.
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