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

Good Morning
cast: Yoshiko Kuga, Kuniko Miyake, Chishu Ryu, Koju Shidara, and Masaniko Shimazu

director: Yasujiro Ozu

94 minutes (PG) 1959
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Made in 1959 and set in a small Japanese suburb (that looks a lot like a load of portacabins in a car park), Good Morning is a light and frothy comedy about the frivolous nature of speech and the importance of communication. Though nominally written from the point of view of the suburb's children, the film actually follows two groups of people.

On the one hand we have the poisonous and gossiping women of the neighbourhood. At the start of the film, the women are complaining about their dues not being handed in, and the mysterious appearance of a washing machine in the house of a woman who shouldn't be able to afford one. Even once this mystery is solved, the gossip does not end as the vow of silence taken by a couple of local children is taken as evidence that their mother bears a grudge.

On the other hand, the local children are all utterly seduced by the only television in the neighbourhood. The promise of sumo and baseball prove too much for the boys and soon they progress from skipping class to throwing tantrums. When their parents say they talk too much, the children take a vow of silence resulting in their not getting school dinners and an unfortunate run in with a local policeman.

Good Morning suggests that while communication is the foundation of our society and all human relationships, it can also be misused by cluttering it up with mindlessly formal etiquette and disastrously imprecise which can lead to social faux pas. This desire to see both the negatives and the positives in a social phenomenon is typical Ozu material. However, what is less usual is that this film chooses to explore these ideas through the medium of comedy. A genre that Ozu seems woefully unsuited to.

The central comic idea of the film is that a simple misunderstanding can create unexpected repercussions that can quickly spiral out of control with hilarious consequences. Indeed, Ozu's idea of a local gossip mill misfiring and prompting its members to do strange things is universal enough a comedy idea to support anything from a French farce to a modern sitcom. However, instead of allowing his actors to milk the script for laughs, Ozu has them perform the script entirely straight as if it were a drama rather than a comedy. This instantly transforms what should have been a good-natured barb aimed at gossips everywhere into a damning indictment of the socially over-sensitive Japanese, instantly removing any comic potential that the script might have had. The strangest thing about this decision though is that the social misunderstanding plot sits cheek-by-jowl with jokes about farting and pooing. The result is a film that lurches from unfunny slapstick to farce played as drama, with little comic effect.

In conclusion, undeniably the weakest of the three films included in the box, Good Morning's failed attempts at comedy do little to hide what is a lightweight and unsatisfying script. Where other Ozu films fearlessly attack contemporary mores, Good Morning seems content to make a few fart jokes. Weak.

Good Morning

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