{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The End of Summer

Last night I saw, Ozu’s second last film, The End of Summer - a masterpiece of the order of Tokyo Story. I am not so taken away by a film in recent times, as this. It has all of Ozu's signature style (narrative eclipses [I am yet to see a death scene in an Ozu film], cyclic sequences [a farewell party sequence go like this - a shot outside the party inn with voice of people singing farewell song, inside the inn - people toasting, exchanging wishes, and finally a shot of outside inn with voice of people singing the same farewell song. There are innumerous examples like this], frame within frame within frame low-angle shots] and themes [marriage, inevitable change, death and family] and yet it is so fresh a work that one feels like seeing Ozu reborn. It looks awkward to say but this film is a surreal experience, not conventional surrealism but surrealism of conventions. What I mean to say - this film looks as a surreal experience in the way people behave, there is a veneer - the joy of seeing old man behaving like a child (the hide and seek between grandfather and grandson looks as if the old man is fooling his age and the death, The dialogue - "I m ready...Are you ready" - also echo this play of nearing death), a young girl preparing for a date when a person lie dead nearby and just before going out standing there in a one-minute mourning, the way a female relative first tries to joke about the old man and when remembers his joy for life, abruptly starts to cry at the funeral (a truly moving scene albeit the awkwardness), the shot of people in black at the funeral put next to black crows who come near the dead, the joyous moments of old man look more of the remembered past than present, the last words of the old man - "Is it this, Is it Really this !", everything makes some strange mixture of surrealism and social conventions, aided by a haunting musical score. Old man’s daughter in law , one of the most honest members of the family, later in film says something very insightful about the films and life both - she says " Father was so irresponsible, but some how he kept it all together". It is the old man who keeps the film together by his childlike charm and tantrums, and when he is gone what is left is a plain life. I also feel more comfortable with Ozu's pessimism now. It’s not a try-hard-feel-bad pessimism, and is therefore deeper down and stays with you. To put it pictorially, it is a canvass on which life, relations, human connections and interactions is drawn in an Ozu's film. Once they are gone, the bright fog (or light, like Ozu's films which are filled with sunlight) of pessimism and nothingness is left. It is nothing to be feared or run away from, it will be there always. Hence it resolves the paradox to see a film filled with life eventually pointing to its temporality and nothingness. Also, this film validates why Ozu made similar type of family stories over the years. To me, it looks as an exercise to understand how people behave in similar situations in different times. Women and men in Ozu's film might have gone wiser or more modern but are still trapped. They are trapped in "the cycle of life", as a paddy farmer says to his wife, seeing the smoke rise from the cremation chimney.

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