Early Summer ★★★★★

Watching this in the midst of reading all of Jane Austen's novels really underlines all the similarities the two share. In SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, Elinor asks her half-brother rhetorically whether or not a certain woman has a choice in her marriage. His response betrays his complete misunderstanding of the point of the question––which is not why shouldn't she wish to marry the person to whom she is expected to be engaged, but rather, is it she who is initiating the connection in the first place? Noriko's family is uniformly disappointed with her decision, for reasons never entirely underlined, except in that they do not conform with the expectations they had been developing––which in turn were founded not on genuine desires but rather on a matter of course.

This in itself gives a sense of Ozu's idea of drama, which is very distinctly understood as change. But not change as a gradual process; change as a contrast. Ozu's paring down of his style as his career went on clarified this, and it's remarkable to see how much of EARLY SUMMER does not "play by the rules," so to speak, with its copious camera movements and fade to black ending. In LATE SPRING, when Noriko looks at the vase, regardless of what it may symbolize, the important thing is that it enables Ozu to disconnect and obscure the change in Noriko's expression, from passivity to tears. In EARLY SUMMER, what shocks the family is that sudden shift from one suitor to the other. Likewise, the way Noriko explains the discovery of her feelings (which I am not entirely sure are as genuine as she says) is that they depended on Yabe's leaving. The contrast of him being there, being taken for granted, and suddenly being gone, is palpable––and also reflected on his disappearance from the narrative. Just so with the children, who expect a train set, and discover a loaf of bread.