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aka - Samma Ma No Aji
Japan 1962
Directed by
Yasujiro Ozu
112 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Autumn Afternoon, An

Ozu’s speciality was in observing ordinary life around him. This strikingly under-stated story of an ordinary Tokyo family, with its subdued colour palette has no drama or plot to speak of and the film, with its largely static, straight-on camerawork is matter-of-fact in its approach to depicting the lives of its protagonists. Of course, as with the haiku there is much more going on than the simple surface appearance initially suggests.

The  film's Japanese title, Samma Ma No Aji, literally translates as The Taste Of Mackeral and represents  the simple pleasures that life contains and the wistfulness that this awareness brings (a memory mentioned in  the director's Tokyo Story, 1953, with which this film shares much) captures well the mood of the film which was made just after the director’s 87-year-old mother, whom the bachelor still lived with, passed away (Ozu himself was to die the next year).

The actors are mainly Ozu regulars. The central figure is a genial, mild-mannered widower Shuhei Hirayama (Chishu Ryu), living with his self-sacrificing 24-year-old daughter Michiko (Shima Iwashita) and his youngest 20-something spoiled son Kazuo (Shinichirô Mikami). His eldest son is the married Koichi (Keiji Sada), who loves to spend money on consumer goods he can't afford. Going against the tradition that a daughter’s duty is to devote her life to looking after her father Hirayama decides to find a spouse for her rather than have her become an old maid.

Don’t expect to be excited by what unfolds but Ozu’s final film is a wonderful representation of ordinary family life in industrializing and westernizing postwar Japan.




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