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The sequence from Late Spring occurs midway through the film, focusing on Noriko’s visit in Aya’s apartment, and it exemplifies Ozu’s auteurist stylistics. The scene doesn’t begin with a traditional establishing shot but rather a mid-shot of Aya as she pours tea. Immediately we can observe Ozu’s idiosyncratic style: the camera is positioned below the eyeline of the characters. Indeed, our point of view is from a low angle, and it stays this way throughout the scene. Importantly, in this scene it bestows a certain degree of authority on Aya, and this is later reinforced through her physical positioning over Noriko. Behind Aya we can notice a modernist painting of a woman, an iconographic prop that parallels Aya, a modern, (albeit involuntarily) employed widow. This is reinforced through her costume and the interior, elements of mise-en-scène that serve as a mimesis of Aya’s modernity and antithesis to Noriko’s traditional household.
The camera is static in every shot, perhaps mirroring the stasis in which Noriko finds herself, trapped in a limbo but also under temporal pressure as she has to decide whether to marry or not. The still shots also emphasize the hidden tension, which is only intensified as the scene progresses. Aya’s first dialogue lines already indicate her authority and stance on the issue: just like everyone else, she wants Noriko to marry. The relationship dynamic between the two characters can be also discerned in their positioning in relation to the camera: Aya is almost always facing towards us, whereas Noriko is to the side. This, coupled with her behaviour, (she is meek and fidgets with her hands) brings out her lack of self-confidence. A long shot follows, depicting the apartment and Aya, sitting higher than Noriko, once again asserting her authority. As their conversation becomes more direct and closer to the topic of marriage, we also get closer, seeing them through over the shoulder mid close-ups. The slow pace of previous shots is juxtaposed with quick cross-cutting as Noriko tries to resist Aya’s advice to get married. Aya eats a generous portion of her cake, whereas Noriko doesn’t even touch hers. As Aya insists that she try some, and Noriko steadfastly refuses, this social ritual parallels Noriko’s refusal to get married despite pressure from her peers and society. Noriko exits the apartment off-screen, and the diegetic action sound of the door being closed loudly ripples through the room.
A cut-in emphasizes this effect, showing a stack of magazines fall to the ground, revealing a heap of books. This not only accentuates Noriko’s frustration, but also alludes to the gender culture of Japan at the time: being well read wouldn’t be something a woman could boast about. This scene is carefully structured, not unlike the style of poetic realism, to elevate Aya to a high position of authority over Noriko. She functions as a symbol for a social milieu in post-war Japan: widowed employed women that nevertheless still hold conservative views in favour of marriage. Simultaneously, it reinforces the theme that time is running out for Noriko to marry.
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