Equinox Flower Blu-ray review
|REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS|
A Japanese post-war outing which may alter your frame-of-reference for 'comedy'...
It’s a strange feeling, being made abruptly aware of your own ignorance. One minute you can be happily spending your time being A Grownup, with A Car and A Sofa, then BAM. You’re six years old, everything is suddenly much taller than you and you’re chewing an olive with an expression of intense disgust. You dimly remember being told that one day your tastes will change, that sooner or later you’ll be Big Enough to appreciate olives and you’ll be able to join the proud ranks of The Adult, but deep down inside you know that it just can’t be true.
This is, without hyperbole, how I felt when I came to watch Equinox Flower. Billed as a comedy, the first colour picture from acclaimed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu is a carefully and subtly observed study of teenage rebellion, paternal impotence and the rage and frustration of a generation feeling its influence being eroded. The key words being ‘care’ and ‘subtlety’. Having jammed the disc into my Gamesbeast5000 I settled myself down for some chuckles. This turned out to be a critical mistake, as it transpires that current standards of comedy cannot quite be applied to post-war Japanese cinema.
Equinox Flower tells the story of Wataru Hirayama (played by Shin Saburi), a businessman and strict traditionalist who finds his daughter wishing to marry the man of her choosing, rather than one chosen for her. Hirayama finds himself helplessly walking into traps barbed with clever wordplay, an apparent conspiracy of his female relatives to unseat him from his position of power and into the eventual acceptance of a world which has evolved beyond his way of thinking.
Despite my initial confusion, there is humour in abundance. It is a bone-dry, carefully considered humour, evoked not just by clever dialogue but by each shot and angle. It is humour which requires effort from the viewer in order to be appreciated. Colour itself is used to this effect - the browns and greys of each scene invariably undermined by the appearance of one item of brilliant boldness: a yellow mug cheekily peering from a shelf, or a bright red teapot, dominating a room. The old-fashioned and dull colours of the past edged out by the vivacity of the new.
Shot after shot is rich in meaning. From the actors who stand with what appears to be a great distance between them, only for the camera to reveal that they were together moving in perfect sync, to the reflection of a pylon in the gleaming walls of a train, the illusion of a perfect mirror image shattering as the train vanishes from view, every single shot is painstakingly chosen to further the story like a series of codified messages.
Accompanying the film is a booklet written by Tony Rayns, an internationally renowned expert in Asian cinema. The booklet carefully examines the film in minute detail and is a wonderful resource for people who, like me, feel overwhelmed by the importance of that which is left unsaid. Ozu’s wartime drama, There Was a Father, is additionally included in the DVD/Blu-Ray package, and the inclusion is a playful nod to the themes and symbolism of Equinox Flower; There Was A Father is a war-time drama which chronicles the struggles of a father to ensure the education of his son.
If you have any interest in Japanese cinema, or simply wish to experience a film utterly opposed to the brash and superficial yuks of most contemporary comedies, Equinox Flower is a damned good place to start. Be warned, though: it’ll make you work for it.
Equinox Flower is out now.
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