Year: 1951Duration: 125 minsLanguage: In Japanese with English subtitles
Arguably the earliest benchmark of subtle feminine power in 50s Japan, Ozu's quietly controversial Early Summer sees a young woman of the post-war era who is promised in an arranged marriage. But caught between her family's archaic traditions and the rapidly westernising society, she is forced to choose between honourable duty and her own path in life.
Featuring the inimitable Setsuko Hara who brings to life a kind of modern young woman whose good manners don’t entirely mask a strong and somewhat unconventional will, Early Summer arguably altered the course of modern Japanese history through Ozu's empowering characterisations - Hara's later roles in her career were then central, pivotal roles and never adjunct to a male lead.
Hara's iconic charming-yet-polite-but-never-a-pushover performance, alongside Ozu's comic lightness in presenting complex every-day domestic and emotional tensions against the backdrop of a marvellously minimalist yet rich cinematography, makes Early Summer one of the most charming rites of passage in modern cinema.