[Originally Published: March 22, 2011]
– for those who have gone on ahead and for those left behind…
Reeling in the soft reverie of life, one gets caught up in what one should do and what one really must do. Feeling the pulse of everyday existence is not the same as actually having the nerve to seize its primal essence. Sometimes, a film can point the way towards that hidden fact, but, normally, a cinema patron is looking for escapism, not enlightenment.
Trapped within the heavy atmosphere of a samurai- and warrior-laden celluloid landscape, there lurk many other beacons of light amidst the Japanese film archives. Almost hidden, but not quite, is a masterpiece of quiet Buddha-like simplicity wrapped up in an honest bit of deception. And so we walk amongst the years, floating away into this edition of Hidden Flick, a life-affirming and character-driven tale of love and honor.
Banshun (or, Late Spring, as it is known in English), directed with cinematic poetry by the great Yasujiro Ozu, centers upon the poignant story of a widower living with his single daughter, and the role that responsibility, tradition, and commitment play in their lives. Much of the film’s richness comes from the performances by Chishu Ryu as the father, and Setsuko Hara as his daughter. She wants to take care of her father, in the wake of his wife’s and her mother’s passing, and she is also not willing to begin her own family. Meanwhile, the father feels that the daughter is missing her opportunities while tending to the alleged duties of his needs. Ultimately, it is a choice we must all face—“who is part of our family?” Indeed, when the question should actually be “who is not?”
But it is Ozu who towers over the film, shedding a soft light on the dynamic interplay between character and humanity, depth and nuance, youth and age, and the subtle themes of immortality and mortality—“do it now,” whispers the dawn; “remember the dawn,” echoes the coming of eve. Spiraling within this timeless frame of tradition and familial love is the hidden wisdom that one’s life isn’t swept along by the extroverted waves of fate, but held together by one’s will through introspective acts of courage. A magician can show how to perform a sleight-of-hand trick. But a true magician can quietly display the artistic mastery of a form, and one is awestruck by its mystery. That was Ozu’s gift.
Super falling star wraps itself around one, until it no longer feels the need to control, to tend to, to make content and filled with security; security, that word again, super falling star—it swells until no longer seen; out of mind, it slowly walks again. To and fro, one is. Simplistic deception no longer exists; one is caught up in a new linear path forward.
The warm swell of experiential existence roots us to a place that one embraces for a fleeting moment. And left with memories that cannot be buried or brought forward, one’s presence is left indelibly marked in the soul of another being as ethereal time rolls over and back into its own place, its own memory of what was and what could be.