Late Spring, one of Yasujirō Ozu’s many masterpieces, is an absolutely beautiful film, focusing on the mutual love between father and daughter. Arguably one of the greatest pictures of all time, Late Spring is truly a joy to watch.
Late Spring opens beautifully on a gathering of women for a Japanese tea ceremony. Ozu uses low angles and wide shots to capture the whole affair. He bisects the ceremony with elegantly framed shots of the surrounding garden and shrine. Ozu uses these landscape shots in most transitions throughout the movie. They wonderfully space-out the action, and act as a means to span various distances of time (be it hours, days, or weeks). The main focus of the camera is on one of the young women at the ceremony, Noriko Somiya (Setsuko Hara). She speaks lovingly of her father with her busy-body aunt (Haruko Sugimora), and on cue, Ozu cuts to a shot of her father back at home. One of Ozu’s signatures is masterfully framed shots. When he cuts to the father, Shukichi (Chishū Ryū), he is hard at work on a transcript with his assistant Hattori (Jun Usami); they are framed perfectly by the opening to their study/living room. The men inhabit the left of the screen, and are balanced by a table and tatami mats on the opposing side. A large sliding door is open in the background, showing the manicured backyard. When Noriko arrives home, Ozu cuts to the opposite corner of the room, obscuring the entrance by several walls. As she walks inside, she becomes visible through perfectly-aligned doorways and furniture. It is, in classic Ozu fashion, shot from a low angle – only about a foot or two off the floor. Ozu pioneered this shot – the tatami shot – and filmed most of his movies with the camera positioned below the actors’ eye lines.