The Only Son

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The Only Son. 1936. Japan. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu


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1936. Japan. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. With Choko Iida, Shin’ichi Himori, Masao Hayama,Yoshiko Tsubouchi, Mitsuko Yoshikawa. "Ozu was the last of the acknowledged masters of Japanese cinema to convert to sound, so his first talkie, The Only Son, makes a fitting climax to this retrospective of early Japanese sound film. Touchingly, Ozu had resisted conversion because he had promised to use a sound system developed by his regular cinematographer, Hideo Mohara, but his debut in the new medium was a masterpiece, hailed by Noel Burch as his 'supreme achievement.' The story of a mother who labours in a silk factory in rural Nagano Prefecture to ensure that her son can be educated, only to find him trapped in a relatively menial teaching job at night school when she visits him in Tokyo, is one of its director's most trenchant critiques of Japanese society, and the film displays Ozu's rigorous style, with its careful composition and suggestive montage, at its most precise and imaginative. Yet Ozu also found room for such playful and self-conscious touches as the visit to a cinema screening of an imported talkie by German actor-director Willi Forst, which (in what has been construed by more than one critic as a coded political comment) sends the protagonist's mother straight to sleep." In Japanese; English subtitles. 82 min.