DVDs

This 1951 film about a middle-class Japanese family trying to arrange a marriage for their 'aging' 28-year-old daughter is considered one of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's most characteristic

DVDs

Early Summer

Criterion, $39.95

This 1951 film about a middle-class Japanese family trying to arrange a marriage for their "aging" 28-year-old daughter is considered one of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's most characteristic. Ozu often dealt with the dissolution of the family, though "dissolution" suggests something more dramatic than what he offered, which was a kind of adversity coupled with serenity. He took care to place his dramas in the context of the bigger world – nature, seasons, things bigger than us – giving a sense of smallness, though not insignificance, to his central stories. Early Summer moves slowly, the first half-hour concerning no plot points at all, just the family members as they go about their daily routines, and the shots are quintessential Ozu, with the camera always low to the ground, never panning, as the characters move to and fro in front of it in movements carefully choreographed to look natural. Ozu's pacing and tendency toward understatement can be trying for a newcomer but are worth it for his attention to small moments, and Criterion's DVD makes a good primer, with its commentary track by Japanese-film expert Donald Richie and its inclusion of essays by cinema studies professor David Bordwell and Ozu devotee Jim Jarmusch.

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