The Salary Man's Life - A Sensitive and Sympathetic Portrayal
- Yasujiro Ozu: Three Melodramas review by AP
I'm just reviewing 'Early Spring' (with mild spoilers).
I so wanted this film to end as indeed it did, on a note of strongly moderated wary hopefulness and optimism reflected in the peacefulness of the landscape and the ambiguous image of the train (departing? passing through? full or empty...?).
Nevertheless, it is a film whose narrative unfolds at length. I don't, on reflection, think it would benefit from cuts. As one would expect from Ozu, this is not an action movie and its drama is slow to emerge as the drama of the ordinary and everyday often is.
Much, I think, depends on Ozu's occasional, but pointed focus on the strains of being a 'salary man', a strain highlighted by the couple of scenes of commuters going to catch the train at Kamata station. There's one particularly striking episode in a bar in which the young Shoji listens to the reflections of the bar owner - a former salary man who worked in the same company as Shoji (the TOA Firebrick Company), and who got out - and a man with only a little time left before retiring on what will be a pension that is less than he hoped. This perhaps explains why Shoji, and his circle of office friends, spend so much time playing mah-jong in the evenings – to obliterate the dreariness of their daily life and prospects; and it explains why, in turn, Shoji’s wife, Masako, finds herself spending so many lonely evenings at home on her own. Together with what seems, to this European viewer's eye, a marked reluctance on the part of the Japanese male to speak of his feelings to his wife and womenfolk, Shoji’s internalising of the misery of his ‘grindstone’ life creates a distance between him and Masako which, by the time the movie begins, has gone far enough for Masako to turn down a chance to spend time with Shoji at the weekend on a hike with his friends. And it is during this hike that 'The Goldfish' starts making a play for him. You can guess the rest of the story more or less, but then I find Ozu is so good at making the ordinary exceptional.
I found this a very rewarding movie.
0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.