Late Spring (1949)

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Late Spring is a 1949 Japanese drama film, directed by Yasujiro Ozu and produced by the Shochiku studio. It is based on the short novel Father and Daughter (Chichi to musume) by the 20th century novelist and critic Kazuo Hirotsu, and was adapted for the screen by Ozu and his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Kogo Noda. The film was written and shot during the Allied Powers' Occupation of Japan and was subject to the Occupation's official censorship requirements. It stars Chishu Ryu, who was featured in almost all of the director's films, and Setsuko Hara, making her first of six appearances in Ozu's work. It is the first installment of Ozu's so-called "Noriko trilogy"-the others are Early Summer (Bakushu, 1951) and Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari, 1953)-in each of which Hara portrays a young woman named Noriko, though the three Norikos are distinct, unrelated characters, linked primarily by their status as single women in postwar Japan.

Late Spring belongs to the type of Japanese film known as shomingeki, a genre that deals with the ordinary daily lives of working class and middle class people of modern times. The film is frequently regarded as the first in the director's final creative period, "the major prototype of the [director's] 1950s and 1960s work." These films are characterized by, among other traits, an exclusive focus on stories about families during Japan's immediate postwar era, a tendency towards very simple plots and the use of a generally static camera.

Late Spring was released in September 1949 and received very positive reviews in the Japanese press. In the following year, it was awarded the prestigious Kinema Junpo critics' award as the best Japanese production released in 1949. In 1972, the film was commercially released in the United States, again to very positive reviews. Late Spring has been referred to as the director's "most perfect" work, as "the definitive film of Ozu's master filmmaking approach and language" and has been called "one of the most perfect, most complete, and most successful studies of character ever achieved in Japanese cinema." In the 2012 version of the widely respected decennial "Greatest Films of All Time" Sight & Sound poll, published by the British Film Institute (BFI), Late Spring appears as the 15th greatest film of all time.

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