Yasujiro Ozu Jonathan Rosenbaum - Essay

Jonathan Rosenbaum

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Devoted to both the profound necessity and the sublime silliness of gratuitous social interchange, Ohayo is a rather subtler and grander work than might appear at first. Commonly referred to as a remake of Ozu's silent masterpiece I Was Born, But …, it is as interesting for its differences as for its similarities…. [It] is the humiliations in the first film which provide much of the comedy, a subject assuming gravity only when it causes a rift between father and sons. But the more pervasive humour of Ohayo extends to the rebellion itself and all it engenders, as well as the various local intrigues surrounding it. Clearly one of Ozu's most commercially-minded movies—with its stately, innocuous muzak of xylophone and strings recalling Tati backgrounds, a similar tendency to keep repeating gags with only slight variations, and a performance of pure ham (quite rare in an Ozu film) by the delightful Masahiko Shimazu as the younger brother—its intricacy becomes apparent only when one realises that each detail intimately links up with every other…. In a context where banal greetings among neighbours, schoolboy farting contests and sweet nothings between a couple are treated as structural equivalents, and sliding doors and shot changes become integral facets of the same 'architecture'—an interrelating complex of adjacent, autonomous units—the fascination is how even throwaway details become part of the design. A poster for The Defiant Ones, for instance, alludes not only to the recalcitrant sons, but the sense of antagonistic parties chained together by circumstance which often seems to function just below the surface of the everyday pleasantries…. Mainly designed to look as casual and as inconsequential as its title, Good Morning gleefully embraces a world that I was Born, But … can acknowledge only painfully. With a father figure at the centre of its constellation … who is exempt from ridicule, it neither seeks nor finds any comparable reasons for serious doubts or despair. Yet thanks to the precision and consistency of the vision, Ozu can take up all the other grinning denizens of this discreetly closed world and pin their endearing absurdities neatly into place. (pp. 247-48)

Jonathan Rosenbaum, "'Ohayo' ('Good Morning')," in Monthly Film Bulletin (copyright © The British Film Institute, 1975), Vol. 42, No. 502, November, 1975, pp. 247-48.