The End of Summer
(Kohayagawa-ke no aki) (1961)
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * * ½

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Banpei (Ganjiro Nakamura), the aging head of the Kohayagawa family, which owns a small sake brewery near Osaka, reignites a relationship with the woman with whom he had had an affair twenty years before, much to his children's annoyance. Meanwhile, his daughter Noriko (Yôko Tsukasa) considers accepting an arranged marriage and his widowed daughter-in-law, Akiko (Setsuko Hara), thinks about remarrying.

Yasujiro Ozu's The End of Summer is a charming, touching film that reminds the viewer of the poignancy and the beauty of the most mundane emotions and experiences.

The director does not relate a complex tale filled with earth shaking events or overwrought tragedies. He instead reveals the everyday happenings occurring over a brief period of time in the lives of the members of a middle class family so that the moviegoer is able to see the simple troubles, hopes, joys, and worries of these individuals. What is more, such incidents, thanks to the director's approach, all have a wonderful intensity and humanity. Even when one of his characters dies, Ozu does not depict this man's end as being melodramatically devastating or catastrophic for his family, but rather portrays their reactions as being tinged with that melancholy wistfulness which is often elicited by such inevitable losses.

These elements are consistently accentuated by the film's enchanting visual qualities. Even though there are some sequences in The End of Summer that are so austere the viewer may not notice the talent with which they have been crafted, these are punctuated by countless others that are absolutely lovely. Ozu, as he often does, shows tremendous skill in his ability to capture the beauty of the most commonplace objects and events. Whether he is showing two women squatting side by side under a blue sky, an old man playing hide and seek with his grandchild, or a procession of mourners slowly walking across a wooden bridge, the director frames and colors these occurrences with the talent of an accomplished painter. The movie is, as a consequence, so lovely that it captivates the viewer, immerses him in its fictional world, and engages with its characters with a genuine immediacy.

Lastly, I should add that all of the performers acquit themselves well. They consistently give their characters' emotions that sense of veracity only subtlety can evoke. Rather than bawling frantically or rolling their eyes in rage, they expose the profundity of ordinary feelings with a sad smile, an affectionate glance, or some other restrained gesture. There is not an actor in the movie who is not a pleasure to watch.

While I am hesitant to claim that The End of Summer is a masterpiece, though I would not argue with anyone who asserts it is, I will say that it certainly, at the least, comes close. It is a beautiful and moving film.

Review by Keith Allen

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