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Film / An Autumn Afternoon

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An Autumn Afternoon (Sanma no aji) is a 1962 Japanese film, the last film by director Yasujiro Ozu.

Shuhei Hirayama is a widower who lives in Tokyo with two of his three adult children: his daughter Michiko and his son Kazuo. He also has a married son, Koichi. His sons aren't doing all that great: Koichi hits his father up for loans and Kazuo is just generally lazy. With their mother apparently long deceased—it's strongly implied that she was killed in an American bombing raid during the war—Michiko is keeping house for her father and brother. Most of the plot revolves around Shuhei's growing worries that Michiko will never be able to marry since she spends all of her time taking care of him and Kazuo, worried that they couldn't take care of themselves.

Chishu Ryu, who was attached to Ozu via umbilical cord, stars as Shuhei. Ozu made several movies around the general premise of an aging father getting a daughter married off; compare his 1949 film Late Spring which is a more tragic take on the whole idea.

Provides examples of:

  • Answer Cut: Akiko's demand that her husband Koichi return the golf clubs they can't afford is followed by a shot of him at a driving range.
  • Arranged Marriage: Shuhei tries to find a suitable husband for his daughter Michiko.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Michiko gets married happily like she wants, making Shuhei's plans a success. But Shuhei is melancholy, sitting home alone in the last scene, after musing how it's a waste to raise children because they leave so soon. There's also irony in that his drunken blubbering is almost exactly like Sakuma's the night Shuhei took him home, but the ostensible reason for marrying Michiko off was so he wouldn't end up like Sakuma.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Shuhei and Kawai play a prank on Kawai's wife Nobuko by saying that Horie has died because he had high blood pressure and a young wife. Later, Kawai and Horie prank Shuhei by telling him that Horie has found a wife for the guy Kawai suggested Michiko marry. Nobuko tells Shuhei that they're just messing with him  Horie wanted revenge for the earlier prank.
  • Class Reunion: Shuhei, Kawai, Horie, and a few of their friends from school meet up along with one of their old teachers.
  • Color Motif: Ozu didn't get into color until the last few films of his career, but when he did he did in a big way. He was particularly fond of the color red. Watch, and there's something colored brightly red in every single scene, including the red teapot that floated through several of Ozu's last films.
  • Dad the Veteran: Shuhei was a captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy. He runs into one of his former subordinates and joins him for a drink.
  • Dirty Old Man: Horie is accused of being one by his friends for having a wife young enough to be his daughter.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job:
    • Sakuma (aka "The Gourd"), the former teacher of Shuhei and his buddies, is now an alcoholic widower and runs a small noodle house in a seedy neighborhood.
    • In a way, Shuhei's job as well. He lives comfortably as a white-collar manager at a factory, but he's a former captain in the navy, and even attended the Japanese naval academy. He admits that he didn't really have many prospects after World War II and got his current job mostly by luck.
  • The Ghost: The man Michiko marries is never shown. In fact, nothing of the wedding is shown.
  • Graceful Loser: Shuhei remarks that he is happy that Japan lost WWII. Mind you that he was a captain in the Imperial Japanese Navy.
  • Henpecked Husband: Koichi's wife Akiko runs their household, and when Koichi tries to buy golf clubs that they can't really afford, she gives him an earful.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The opening titles play against a background of painted palm fronds, as opposed to the sackcloth that formed the background for every Ozu title sequence going back to A Story of Floating Weeds in 1934.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Very much an Ozu trademark, on full display here. Every single shot of the movie is stationary, usually low-angle, and quite a few times it lingers when nothing much is happening in the frame.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than Late Spring, which follows almost the exact same plot and themes, but in a tragic way. In this film, the daughter actually desires marriage, but is waiting for the right time, and there's actual expectations on the father to not rely on his daughter for his whole life. The daughter here ends up happy on the day of her wedding instead of crushed, and since the father has another child still living at home, he's not left completely alone in the end, merely downcast in a realistic way that his daughter is gone from the home.
    • Inverted in the case of Michiko and Miura. In Late Spring, the engaged Hattori is implied to have a subtle crush on Noriko, but Noriko has no interest in him. Michiko and Miura's feelings are mutual, but Miura wouldn't break his engagement, and Michiko is despondent when she learns that he's taken.
  • Local Hangout: The restaurant/bar (called Wakamatsu—"The Young Pine") where Shuhei and his friends go after work. There's even a baseball game (Taiyo Whales vs. Hanshin Tigers) on TV the first time we see it.
  • The Lost Lenore: Shuhei's wife is long dead when the movie begins, but she's still on his mind a great deal. A female bar-owner reminds him of her, even though he admits that the resemblance is not that great.
  • Old Maid: The fear of Michiko becoming one drives Shuhei's desire to find her a husband, and thus most of the movie's plot.
  • Out with a Bang: Shuhei and Kawai prank Kawai's wife Nobuko by saying Horie died, and heavily implying that this was how. She is not amused when Horie shows up alive and well.
  • Special Edition Title: Ozu often set the film title against a sackcloth background; with this film he used a background of fronds.
  • Time Skip: The movie skips to Michiko's wedding without even showing her meeting the guy, only showing her agreeing to give him a shot.
  • Women Are Wiser: Akiko is much more sensible than her husband Koichi when it comes to financial matters.