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Japan 1959
Directed by
Yasujiro Ozu
94 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Yasujirô Ozu’s iconic film, a re-working of his own 1931 film I Was Born But… has been with justice, compared to the films of Jacques Tati. There has long been a relationship of mutual aesthetic admiration between Japan and France but if one compares Ohayô with Tati’s Mon Oncle, which was released the previous year, what strikes one is not so much a matter of cross-fertilization as the Zeitgeist at work on both form and content.

Both films share an affectionately light-hearted take on the foibles of the daily life of ordinary suburban folk and, perhaps even more emphatically, an identification with childhood innocence over adult cynicism (one also thinks of Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon which was released two years earlier). Both films also share a beguiling visual stylization, with Ozu making impressive use of his characteristic hieratic framing and the simple geometry of his sets, much as Tati played with the geometricized functionalism of his ideal Modernist home.

Telling the story of a couple of young brothers who take a vow of silence after they are berated by their irritated father who they have been pestering for a television set, Ohayô is somewhat sentimental and some may find it even repetitious but such are the rhythms of the lives of its characters, a group of families living in (very) close proximity to each other. Notwithstanding its intentional banality it is an exquisitely crafted film and probably the most accessible instance of the director's work for a Western audience.




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