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Ozu DVD boxset
Equinox Flower is available with Good Morning and Tokyo Twilight in the Ozu DVD boxset from Tartan.

Equinox Flower
cast: Shin Saburi, Ineko Arima

director: Yasujiro Ozu

118 minutes (PG) 1958
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Made in 1958, the enigmatically named Equinox Flower was based on a novel and was the first of Yasujiro Ozu's films to be made in colour. Decidedly lighter in tone than Tokyo Twilight, the film is the story of a middle class Japanese family. The film begins with Hirayama attending a wedding and giving a speech about how nowadays people married for love but in his day people married out of duty and through arranged marriages. This social change provides the film's central theme.

Hirayama is a respected man and he finds himself frequently helping out other people who come to him for advice. One moment he is protecting a young lady from her eccentric mother's desire to marry her off to a young doctor and the next he is trying to build bridges between an old friend and his daughter who has run off to live with her boyfriend. Resolutely liberal and forward-looking, Hirayama is horrified when he discovers that his daughter intends to marry her boyfriend. Stubborn and unreasonable, his behaviour puts pressure on the rest of his family until they begin to act behind his back in order to help him to overcome his initial misgivings.

The original cinematic trailer for the film (included here as an extra) boasts that the film will make us laugh and cry, and it is easy to see why. The central conflict revolving around Hirayama's struggle to reconcile his beliefs about the world with his beliefs about his family is genuinely moving simply because it seems so utterly unreasonable and unfair. But despite the heavy social commentary and emotional turmoil, the film is also genuinely amusing whether it's an employee trying to pretend that he isn't a regular at a bar or a mother putting herself through an unpleasant physical in order to see her daughter married off.

The performances are of a high standard. The slightly stilted and low-key performances given by the cast nicely suggest the idea of a society where emotions are kept in check. Shin Saburi is superb as Hirayama and Ineko Arima continues to ooze the elegant beauty of a true cinema star while providing a finely nuanced performance. The move to colour has also done little to dim the brilliance of Ozu's direction. Again we find the tatami-level shots, the lack of fades, the filming of buildings and objects as visual palette-cleansers between big scenes and Ozu's bizarre tendency to place the camera directly in the actor's eye line, having them perform their lines looking into the camera as if they were looking at the person they are talking to.

While undeniably a fine film, Equinox Flower ultimately proves somewhat unsatisfying. Between the comedy and the secondary plotlines involving friends' daughters, the film never completely settles down into the character study that it should rightfully have been. Hirayama's exact motivations for refusing to allow his daughter to marry are never really explored making his refusal seem childish rather than dramatic. The lack of precision also means that the final payoff of Hirayama's acceptance is underpowered robbing the film of the heart-warming conclusion it seemingly yearned for. Indeed, rather than an exploration of family life, the film seems more like a portrait that gives us appearances but little depth.

A heart-warming and, at times, moving look at changing attitudes to marriage in postwar Japan, Equinox Flower boasts some excellent performances and a load of lovely ideas but ultimately proves to be somewhat unsatisfying.

Equinox Flower

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