DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
GOOD MORNING (Ohayô) (director/writer: Yasujiro Ozu; screenwriter: Kôgo Noda; cinematographer: Yuuharu Atsuta; editor: Yoshiyasu Hamamura; music: Toshirô Mayuzumi; cast: Keiji Sada (Heichiro Fukui, Teacher), Yoshiko Kuga (Setsuko Arita, Aunt), Chishu Ryu (Keitaro Hayashi, Father), Kuniko Miyake (Mrs. Hayashi), Haruko Sugimura (Mrs. Haraguchi), Masahiko Shimazu (Isamu, The younger son), Koji Shitara (Minoru, The older son), Eijirô Tono (Mr. Tomizawa), Teruko Nagaoka (Mrs. Tomizawa), Eiko Miyoshi (Grandma Haraguchi), Shige Okubo (as Toyo Takahashi (Okubo), Hajime Shirata (Kozo), Masuo Fujiki (Zen); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; Janus Films; 1959-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

 
"It's Ozu's simplest and most schematic film, a lighthearted comedy that is built around the motif of changing values from the old to the new."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A genial comedy shot in color that's an update from Ozu's own silent "I Was Born, But...". It's Ozu's simplest and most schematic film, a lighthearted comedy that is built around the motif of changing values from the old to the new, consumerism as part of the concession to being Westernized, the decline in parental authority, and the necessity of small-talk and TV as part of the modern everyday experiences of ordinary people. The physical comedy is supplied by a series of farting and soiling one's pants jokes, where Ozu pokes fun at those who don't see these things as being very human. It's set in a close-knit, lower-middle-class residential suburb of Tokyo, where the commuters take the train to work. 

The featured family is the affable and economically comfortable Hayashis, where the father (Chishu Ryu) is a salaryman with the gas company (the worker in the gas company also farts at home) and mom (Kuniko Miyake) is the beleaguered housewife who is kept busy taking care of her two stubborn young school-aged sons, the youngest Isamu (Masahiko Shimazu) and Minoru (Koji Shitara), who drive her crazy because they go to their neighbor's house to watch sumo wrestling on TV instead of doing their English lessons and go off on temper tantrums why they don't have a TV. But the parents, even though they can afford to buy one, feel TV is only for idiots. When the boys won't stop talking about their gripe, their father scolds them for talking too much. They respond that grownups also talk too much. The boys then refuse to talk to anyone, going on a 'silence strike,' even in school. The boys' action of not talking is misinterpreted in school as being disobedient, as the older boy is punished for nor reading aloud in class and the younger one mystifies his sweet teacher who thinks he's too shy to ask to go to the bathroom. When the boys refuse to talk to the gossip-monger neighbor, Mrs. Haraguchi (Haruko Sugimura), she misinterprets it as snub and that their mother still holds it against her for an earlier misunderstanding about the payment of club dues. Mrs. Haraguchi, head of the block association, stirs up the neighbors against Mrs. Hayashi by saying she bears grudges and can't forgive, and they return things they borrowed from her and act chilly towards her. The boys go for English lessons to the young tutor Fukui (Keiji Sada), who is bemused by their antics and tries to talk sense to them--like telling them by the eating of pumice stone they can only get terribly sick and not improve their ability to fart as they were told in jest by one of their neighbors. When the boys don't show up for lessons one afternoon and don't show up at home, the parents are concerned and send mom's pretty young sister, Setsuko (Yoshiko Kuga), the boy's aunt, to look for them and she turns up at the teacher's house. Trying to avoid the boys getting another scolding and also trying to get into the good graces of Setsuko, whom he secretly has a crush on but doesn't have enough nerve to tell her this, Fukui searches for the boys and brings them home when he finds them watching TV near the police station. The film earns its title as we see the teacher and Setsuko meeting at the train station the next day and he gets up enough nerve to say 'good morning' and they chat about the weather (a substitute for telling her how he really feels about her) and agree to sit next to each other for the trip to Ginza. 

The sublot has a series of tragi-comic moments develop such as the elderly neighbor Tomizawa (Eijirô Tono) is bitter that he can't get a job after working for a big company for thirty years and stays sane only by getting drunk. One day he approaches Mr. Hayashi and tells him he got a job with the small Kowa electrical company as a door to door salesman and sells him a TV. This will gladden the hearts of the boys and they break their silent treatment, as the parents insist the gift means that they must study harder in school. Mr. Hayashi, though only middle-aged, will reflect on retirement and if he can still maintain a comfortable lifestyle, as he buys the TV from his neighbor mostly because he feels sorry for him and can imagine himself in the same predicament a few years from now. The mother (Eiko Miyoshi) of Mrs. Haraguchi complains about how she's not appreciated by her family; the kindly young ne'ver-do-well couple with the TV set that allowed the boys to watch wrestling (the craze in Japan in the 1950s) is forced to move because of the spiteful neighbors' gossip; and, as the boys go to school every day with their friend Kozo (Hajime Shirata), Mrs. Haraguchi's son, and play their game of 'farting on command,' Kozo still can't do it and soils his pants. The film's last shot has his underwear on the clothes line, which is Ozu's last laugh at certain social conventions.

Though not demanding, Ozu nevertheless offers his usual pathos and concerns over human nature and manages some profound social commentary while adding his voice for the need for people to communicate and so be it if it's only through small talk, farting or the idiot box. The film looks fresh because it concentrates on the neighborhood life and has a lot of fun doing farting jokes.

REVIEWED ON 6/17/2006        GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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