Equinox Flower ★★★★

I wish more fiction writers would pay close attention to the collaborations between Ozu and screenwriter Kogo Noda. Equinox Flower, for example, is "just" a string of short, talky scenes that incrementally develop the plot. The conversations tend to be about family and marriage, though sometimes they're more tangential. Most are experienced via room-encompassing tatami shots. (Red teapots often dot the foreground, as this is Ozu's first color film.) Few have what we might think of as conventional dramatic impact.

Yet such a full picture accumulates by the end: of Japan's postwar middle-class and its gender dynamics in general; of the Hirayama family, with its internal gambits and compromises, in particular. The storytelling is gentle, assured, and honest, not to mention consistently funny, with its humor often rooted in the same social nuances as the drama. I can think of few better sources to turn to for pointers on how to tell a story. It takes some studiously honed craft to do so much—to spread your sympathies so widely and leave such a deep mark—without seeming to do anything at all.