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Good Morning (1959)
Directed by: Yasujiro Ozu
Starring: Keji Sada, Yoshiko Kuga, Chishu Ryu
Rated: NR (Suggested PG for Some Rude Humor)
Running Time: 1 h 34 m
TMM Score: 3.5 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Aesthetic, Charm, Writing, Directing
In a small village in Japan, two boys start a silence strike to convince their parents to buy them a television.
Ozu has a very distinct style; his frames are always full of leading lines, staggered staging, lots of depth, and layered patterns upon patterns. Many of his shots are symmetrical or close to it, and nigh everything he puts in front of the camera is meant to be there for a certain reason. The way his scenes play out are slow but charming, particularly in Good Morning. The humor doesn’t come from rip-roaring jokes but from unusual coincidences or repeated circumstances. This film isn’t so much a comedy as it is a charming, nostalgic glimpse at 1950s Japan.
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
A slice of life piece. Two siblings, Minoru (Koji Shitara, Late Autumn) and Isamu (Masahiko Shimazu, High and Low), go over to their neighbors’ home to watch television. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother searches for missing rent money. When the boy’s mother and father refuse to buy them a television set, the boys go on a silence strike, hoping that will force them into buying one.
The simplicity of this film is part of what gives it its charm. There aren’t any life altering circumstances that arise throughout this film, it’s just a simple story about generational disparity. If you’re at all familiar with Ozu’s work, then you’ll know this is a theme that he likes to visit frequently. Perhaps the best example of this is in his masterpiece, Tokyo Story (1953). But while Tokyo Story was a bittersweet melodrama, this film is a much lighter dramedy; it feels like everyday life, only with a little more saturation.
The two boys, Minoru and Isamu, are both great in this movie. They do come off sort of like spoiled brats throughout the film, but at the same time, their relationship together is so unique that you can’t help but sympathize with their cause. The youngest boy is particularly funny, as he tries to mimic his older brother’s actions, even down to the position in which the older boy reclines. The boys do add a little rude humor throughout the entire thing; there’s a recurring joke about the boys eating certain foods so that they can fart better in front of their friends. It’s absolutely bizarre, but in a way it just shows the difference between the generations even more. The way Ozu portrays character relationships between generations in this film feels very genuine. The father scolding the two boys for leaving toothpaste residue on the sink, and the two boys teaming together to not give away who left it out feels like something that everyone has probably experienced at one point or another. Generations group together to butt heads in this movie, but not in a way that causes strife, just mild irritation.
The cinematography for this film is wonderfully simplistic, but the way that everything is framed is very appealing to the eye. I mentioned above that everything in his shots seems to have a reason to be there, and some of the shots are even perfectly symmetrical. The color tone he uses, too, is a sort of warm pastel, and it fills the viewer even more with nostalgia. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Ozu was a huge influence on Wes Anderson, and if you compare this movie to some of Anderson’s work, it looks extremely similar as far as layout and color palette.
My biggest issue with the movie was that it seemed to go on a bit too long; the story itself felt like it could’ve been told in a short film and had the same effect. I always enjoy watching Ozu work, and some of the scenes throughout were quite humorous, but others slowed up the film a bit. The overlapping storylines between different generations felt a little drawn out, and it probably could’ve been simplified, but this film is already only an hour and a half long. I can’t say I was ever bored during this movie, but it’s not one I would recommend to people who aren’t used to watching older, slower paced dramas.
This is a very simple movie, but it’s not without its charms. If you’re a huge fan of Ozu, Japanese cinema, or quiet, innocent films with a few laughs then this movie is for you. This isn’t Ozu’s best, by any means, but it’s certainly worth the hour and a half it takes to watch it.
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