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Farewell to the Summer Light (1968)

Saraba natsu no hikari (original title)
A spontaneous romance blooms between Kawamura, a professor touring Europe, and Naoko, a married woman living in Paris, scarred by the Nagasaki atomic bombings. The two protagonists travel around Europe trying to find themselves.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Mariko Okada ... Naoko Toba
Tadashi Yokouchi ... Makoto Kawamura
Paul Beauvais ... Robert Fitzgerald (as Paul Bauvais)
Hélène Soubielle ... Mary Fitzgerald
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Storyline

A spontaneous romance blooms between Kawamura, a professor touring Europe, and Naoko, a married woman living in Paris, scarred by the Nagasaki atomic bombings. The two protagonists travel around Europe trying to find themselves.

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Drama | Romance

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Release Date:

31 December 1968 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Farewell to the Summer Light  »

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2.35 : 1
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References Grazie zia (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

Yoshida's most European film - for obvious reasons
29 November 2014 | by See all my reviews

If Akira Kurosawa's movies are often thought of as being very American in style, Yoshishige Yoshida's are very European (specifically French) in mood. After all, the man studied French literature and culture and is fluent in French. Farewell to the Summer Light (named after Nagasaki bombings the female protagonist is traumatized by) is like a Japanese counterpart to Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and follows a couple on their quick trips around Europe, including Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Mont-Saint- Michel, Sweden, Denmark, Amsterdam, Paris once again, and finally Rome. This strange half-travelogue, half-reflective romance stars Yoshida's wife Mariko Okada (in one of their many collaborations) and Tadashi Yokouchi. By the way, this is the last out of six "anti-melodramas" Yoshida made in the '60s. The script was, as it seems, written on the fly, as the crew was changing locations.

The two globe-trotting strangers (Naoko and Kawamura) are connected only by the fact they're both Japanese. Naoko is married to an American and scarred by the Nagasaki bombings. Kawamura searches throughout Europe for a specific cathedral similar to one he saw back in Japan. Naoko doesn't believe in love and often feels quite isolated, so Yoshida links her character with Mont-Saint-Michel, which they visit during a low tide. Among the reasons she's attracted to Kawamura is because he reminds her of her homeland, more specifically the image of pre-war Japan. Kawamura's meaningless search for the phantom cathedral, on the other hand, may symbolize his endless search for true love.

The cities themselves are interestingly woven into the storyline and cinematography. The protagonists are often seen as two distant figures among vast coasts, streets or monuments, or divided by pillars in one of Yoshida's many depictions of alienation. The city life is rarely active, in fact the streets are mostly empty, with only the two of them conversing. Even street signs are put to use, like in the scene where Kawamura seeks for Naoko's attention, where he stands near a signpost which points to him with an arrow. He loses Naoko in the wide street maze and is left under a bunch of signs, all of which point to different directions. There are even some slightly surreal scenes, like the mystifying scene of Naoko pseudo-killing herself with a spade in Madrid, near the movie's start.

Naoko and Kawamura are the only people present around most of the time. Even though sometimes it's implied that this is to accentuate their insignificance, other frames suggest that the world is an open playing board for them to use, like the wonderful shot of the two of them standing on opposite sides on a world map on the floor. That's one of my favorite shots in any Yoshida film.

However, the movie is slightly ruined by the corny scene with Naoko's American husband and his sister. Those two were played by French actors, however their characters are speaking English, through a horribly crappy dub. Those dialogues in English are so poorly dubbed that the accidental camp value almost ruins the poetic, sensory atmosphere that Yoshida builds throughout the film. It's a beautiful movie nevertheless.


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