Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Starring Keiji Sada, Chishu Ryu, Yoshiko Kuga, Koji Shidara
Yasujiro Ozu would have turned 100 years old on December 12, 2003. He left the world 54 masterful films. It is unfortunate that, as rumor has it, only 33 survive to this day. Criterion is making several of this influential director’s work available on DVD. I have reviewed Ozu’s film “Tokyo Story” and continue with a look at Ozu’s work with his film “Good Morning” or “Ohayo” from 1959.
Yasujiro Ozu is known for his honest and emotional films about families, daily life and the generation gap experienced by parents and children. “Good Morning” shows that he is capable of injecting subtle humor into his pleasantly simple stories.
Isamu and Minoro, played by Koji Shintara and Masahiko Shimazu, are brothers. Their parents do not own a television. So they frequent the home of a hip and younger couple that has the only television in the neighborhood. Isamu and Minoro love to watch their Sumo shows instead of doing their homework. Their father tells Isamu and Minoro that television viewing will diminish their intelligence. The mother and father of Isamu and Minoro do not approve of this couple’s lifestyle. They forbid the two boys to visit the couple and watch their television.
This decision infuriates Isamu and Minoro. They decide to take a vow of silence until their wish for a television is granted. At first, the parents enjoy the quieter house and the boy’s concentration on schoolwork. However, soon the boys are having trouble in and out of school related to being mute. Isamu and Minoro also decide to run away briefly. This incident inspires the parents to examine their feelings about their sons and their decision to not own a television.
To reveal if Isamu and Minoro vow of silence works and their desire for a television is granted is to ruin the humorous and clever story of “Good Morning”. There is also an excellent subplot involving the neighborhood wives club and missing dues. Money is missing from the account and fingers are pointed at several members. One such member recently purchased a washing machine, an expensive luxury few in the neighborhood are able to afford. This misunderstanding and chain of gossip and events is the cause of some hilarious situations that Ozu handles with ease. Isamu and Minoro make some excellent observations and comments regarding the pointless nature of many of the adult’s conversation. Many of the conversations are insincere greetings and farewells, pointless discussions of mundane occurrences, and gossip about everything and everyone in the neighborhood. How can the adults call television a waste of time when so much of the adult’s time is wasted with nonsense as well?
Ozu shows a remarkable ability to handle comedy in “Good Morning”. Even though “Good Morning” is lighthearted, it still manages to delve into emotions dealing with how parents relate to their children and trying to bridge the generation gap.
One of the main strengths of this great film is the performance of both Isamu and Minoro. The performances are natural and funny. Ozu apparently has a gift in soliciting great performances from children and adults alike. Ozu has a reputation for expecting perfection and requiring several takes. Even with this work ethic, he kept the children’s performances lively and interesting and never too polished or dull.
“Good Morning” is filled with Ozu’s trademark low camera angles and rigid framing. The cinematography is “Good Morning” is spectacular and colorful. The lighting design is sensible yet beautiful. The set design is first rate. Ozu is not known for fancy camera trickery or flashy edits. He is known more for telling simple and emotional stories perfectly.
“Good Morning” is another great example of Yasujiro Ozu’s work. This film should belong on the shelf of any Japanese film fan. We are fortunate that Criterion is making some of his films available to watch and own.
“Good Morning” is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and is Full Screen. The DVD was created from a remastered high quality 33mm low contrast composite print. The colors are very vibrant and crystal clear. I did not notice any grain, dirt or artifacts.
A first rate transfer
“Good Morning” is presented in 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono sound. It is presented in its original Japanese language with English Subtitles. It is clear from pop, hiss and noise. Although, mono is never dynamic. This is not the DVD to show off your sound system however it is fine and suitable for this film.
The Bonus Features
Unfortunately, there aren’t any bonus features to review. The DVD only contains the movie. There isn’t a trailer either. There is a short essay included on the insert by a film historian. I think at least the trailer and a commentary track by film historian Donald Richie would be appropriate. However, we are lucky as film fans to even have this great film available to us.
Overall (Not an Average)8/10
The Movie 10/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 7/10
The Bonus Features 1/10
Overall (Not an Average)8/10