EQUINOX FLOWER (HIGANBANA) (Yasujirō Ozu, 1958)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
144 and 165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
December 8, 10, 12, Walter Reade Theater, and December 11, Francesca Beale Theater
Series runs December 4-12
212-875-5050 / 212-875-5166
Yasujirō Ozu’s first film in color, at the studio’s request, is another engagingly told exploration of the changing relationship between parents and children, the traditional and the modern, in postwar Japan. Both funny and elegiac, Equinox Flower opens with businessman Wataru Hirayama (Shin Saburi) giving a surprisingly personal speech at a friend’s daughter’s wedding, explaining that he is envious that the newlyweds are truly in love, as opposed to his marriage, which was arranged for him and his wife, Kiyoko (Kinuyo Tanaka). Hirayama is later approached by an old middle school friend, Mikami (Ozu regular Chishu Ryu), who wants him to speak with his daughter, Fumiko (Yoshiko Kuga), who has left home to be with a man against her father’s will. Meanwhile, Yukiko (Fujiko Yamamoto), a friend of Hirayama’s elder daughter, Setsuko (Ineko Arima), is constantly being set up by her gossipy mother, Hatsu (Chieko Naniwa). Hirayama does not seem to be instantly against what Fumiko and Yukiko want for themselves, but when a young salaryman named Taniguchi (Keiji Sada) asks Hirayama for permission to marry his older daughter, Setsuko (Ineko Arima), Hirayama stands firmly against their wedding, claiming that he will decide Setsuko’s future. “Can’t I find my own happiness?” Setsuko cries out. The widening gap between father and daughter represents the modernization Japan is experiencing, but the past is always close at hand; Ozu and longtime cowriter Kōgo Noda even have Taniguchi being transferred to Hiroshima, the scene of such tragedy and devastation. Yet there is still a lighthearted aspect to Equinox Flower, and Ozu and cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta embrace the use of color, including beautiful outdoor scenes of Hirayama and Kiyoko looking out across a river and mountain, a train station sign warning of dangerous winds, the flashing neon RCA Victor building, and laundry floating against a cloudy blue sky. The interiors are carefully designed as well, with objects of various colors arranged like still-life paintings, particularly a red teapot that shows up in numerous shots. And Kiyoko’s seemingly offhanded adjustment of a broom hanging on the wall is unforgettable. But at the center of it all is Saburi’s marvelously gentle performance as a proud man caught between the past, the present, and the future. Equinox Flower is screening December 8-12 as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center festival “Ozu and His Afterlives,” which honors the 110th anniversary of the master filmmaker’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his death; he died on his birthday at the age of sixty in 1963. The series also features Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon in addition to seven works that were either directly or indirectly inspired by Ozu and his unique style, including Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking, Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, Aki Kaurismäki’s The Match Factory Girl, Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum, Pedro Costa’s In Vanda’s Room, and Wim Wenders’s Tokyo-Ga.