Elegantly shot and quietly powerful, Late Spring is considered one of Yasujiro Ozu's finest films, along with Tokyo Story (1953) and Early Summer (1951). Like those films, Spring stars beautiful, enigmatic Setsuko Hara as Noriko, a woman reluctant to abandon her widowed father for marriage. And like most Ozu films, Spring subtly details the clash between the values of traditional Japan and those of contemporary society. Either Noriko leaves her father and enters the confining yet socially sanctioned world of marriage or she stays with him and enters the alienated labor pool like her thoroughly modernized friend Aya. Yet the film could just as easily be read as a wistful elegy to lost freedom. Though Ozu shoots the film with his trademark idiosyncratic restraint -- including wide and low camera angles, mismatched eyelines, and long shots of unpeopled spaces -- the camera is remarkably mobile during the first half of the film. Noriko is seen enjoying herself on a bicycle ride with a handsome young man and later exulting on a train trip. As Noriko progresses towards marriage, the camera confines her, echoing her own social entrapment. By the end of the film, Noriko's presence is replaced with a wedding portrait, while her father sits alone in an empty house. Late Spring is a remarkably moving film by one of world cinema's finest masters.
by Jonathan Crow review