Sunday, February 10, 2008

There Was a Father

Chichi ariki; Drama, Japan, 1942; D: Yasujiro Ozu, S: Chishu Ryu, Suji Sano, Shin Saburi, Takeshi Sakamoto, Mitsuko Mito, Masayoshi Otsuka

Shuhei Horikawa is a widowed geometry teacher living with his little son Ryohei. When he takes his class to a school excursion around the Tokyo area, one careless student takes a boat and drowns in a lake. Feeling responsible, Shuhei hands over his resignation and decides never to work as a teacher again. Together with his son, he moves to the small town Ueda. In order to finance his education, he moves to Tokyo and finds a job at the archives, but thus seperates from him. 10 years later, Ryuhei is 25 years old and finds a job as a university teacher, admiting to his dad he wants to move near him to be in his presence. But his dad becomes sick and dies.

Wise director Yasujiro Ozu always managed to show difficult, heavy themes about tragedies in life in a very cheerful, light and elegant way, brilliantly displaying a shift between style and content. Ozu, sadly a lifelong bachelor without children, ironically loved to direct dramas about family, and his underrated "There Was a Father" neatly builds a loving relationship between father and his son, crafting a rather supressed and tame, but quality made film non the less. In a gentle way Ozu avoids the World War II propaganda motives usual for 1942 and poses contemplative questions about the father who worked all his life to finance his son's education, but in the end didn't have much from it because the two of them hardly spent any time together. Dynamic, but for today's standards not that interesting anymore, "Father" is a good film that only occasionally touches a few great dimensions.


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