Thursday, February 6, 2014

Notes on Akibiyori (Late Autumn by Yasujiro Ozu, Japan: 1960- (Berlin Filmfestival II. - Berlinale Classics

I remember the Berlin Film festival 1988. Akibiyori was screened in the retrospective “History of the colour Films”. I was already a big admirer of Ozu and I knew this film already but until this very screening I knew some films by Ozu only from TV in horribly German dubbed versions. This screening 1988 took place in a film theatre which is colsed since a long time now. It was called “Astor”. I remember I sat in the first row and even though it is by far not the saddest film by Ozu, I could not stop to cry the fist 30 minutes. It was a brilliant print in french subtitles. But I knew the film and the french subtitles did not bother me at all.
I was blown away by the colours, a beauty I was not prepared for. This was the begin of a year I discovered more films by Ozu and – more important – on the big screen.
Ozu made only 5 films in colour, but some of them are the most beautiful colour films ever made. This impression I had from the screening of Akibiyori 1988 is burnt into my memory, Setsulo Hara´s kimono at her last common journey with her daughter (who will get married soon) remains unforgettable for me.
Akibiyori is also one of half a dozen films by Ozu I watched in the last 30 years more than 20 times and the most beautiful one was this screening on a winter evening in the “Astor”
Another moment is hunting me, a moment of the film I am always looking forward when ever I see this film.
Setsuko, Hara, who plays a widow works in a school for handcrafts. In the background from a building close to this  school we hear the Menuetto, the second movement from Mozart´s piano sonata No. 11. It is part of the soundtrack and appears like by accident. But it has a beauty like this wonderful colours. It often happens in Ozus films, especially in his late masterpieces: something appears like an accident but like a magic moment.
When Setsuko Hara´s Akiko Miwa makes her last journey with her daughter, we hear a lot of songs from other hotel guests in the background. Especially when Ozu began to make films in colours, the soundtrack has a unique chemistry with the colours.
Melodies appear, which are connected with some character´s memories.

Almost all his five colour films are corresponding with some very early films by Ozu. Akibiyori could be seen as the sequel of Ozus. Seishun no yuma ima izuko (Where now are the Dreams of Youth, 1932). Parts of what the elder characters in this film are remembering from their life reminds exactly in this film made 28 years earlier. Even without ever having used flashbacks, the past is always present in Ozus films. Ozus characters are always full of memories and I remember my first impression I had from Akiko was, that as absurd as it seems, these characters have a life on their own. The first night after the first time I saw this film, I dreamt only about the characters, this dream was an endless variation of Akibiyori.

To come back to this remarkable screening of 1988, I think it was the first time that I was really obsessed with these rooms the characters are living in and with.
Even though Ozu reduced his formal cinematic a lot, I am not so sure about calling him a minimalist. There was a time when I thought I have to be interested in Bresson as well but his films left me cold until today opposite to Ozu. You can call Ozu´s films formal strict, but after seeing most of his films, you remember the delicious dished in these films and the exquisite kind of drinks they enjoyed in this film.
Rooms can be changed, renovated, varied or be painted in different colours. Akibiyori is like his first colour film Higanbana and his last masterpiece Samma no aji close to the plot of one of his most famous film Banshun. But if you see this mentioned film in a row the changes and variations he made are evident.
Akibiyori is with Samma no aji, Ozu´s finest films in colour. Even though I consider Samma no aji as one of the finest films Ozu ever made, as an introduction into Ozus work with colour, Akibiyori is probably the better access.It is also one of Ozu´s lightest and often funniest film. His comedy Ohayo,(1959) might be his funniest film after the war but leaves me relatively cold. Together with Bakushu (1951) and Soshun (1956) Akibiyori is probably Ozu´s most successful approach to come very close to his vision "to show the life "without dramatic ups and downs".

Rüdiger Tomczak

February 10, Cinemaxx 8, 20.00
february 15, Cinemaxx  8, 19.00

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