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Good Morning: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Good Morning: Criterion Collection

July 31, 2017

Director: Yasujiro Ozu,
Starring: Masahiko Shimazu, Koji Shidara, Kuniko Miyake, Yoshiko Kugo, Chishu Ryu, Haruko Sugimura,

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DVD Review

From its whimsical score playing over the opening credits, Good Morning (1959) establishes a playful tone – something that was atypical of the work of Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, known mostly for serious dramas like Tokyo Story (1953). Yet to dismiss Good Morning as a minor work, a forgettable trifle of a film, is to dismiss the wonderfully understated social commentary that is at work.

Minoru (Shidara) and his younger brother Isamu (Shimazu) refuse to speak when their parents deny them a television set. It’s the 1950s and T.V. is all the rage with the two boys going over to a friend’s house to watch sumo wrestling in defiance of their mother and under the guise of studying English.

On one level, Good Morning is a silly comedy about boys that greet each other by farting, and on another level it is an observant commentary about suburban life, like how the wives gossip among each other, jealous of one that bought a washing machine, or how the boys’ mother frowns on the bohemian couple next door because their different… and let her children watch T.V. Ozu shows, via crosscutting editing, how some of the exchanges between housewives is trivial and some of it actually has merit.

The child actors are uniformly excellent with young Masahiko Shimazu particularly adorable as Isamu whose way of saying goodbye to his mother is “I love you,” in English. It comes across as an endearing repeating motif that is symbolic of the charm of Good Morning.

Good Morning was a remake of Ozu’s silent comedy I Was Born, But… (1932) and it is interesting to see where the latter differs from the former. Each one has its merits but I prefer Good Morning’s Technicolor splendor and its masterful juxtaposition of breezy comedy and sly social commentary, which reinforces the brilliance of Ozu’s filmmaking.

Special Features:

The Technicolor look really pops on this 4K transfer with plenty of detail visible. This is an impressive looking print that really compliments the look Ozu creates.

Film critic David Cairns examines how Ozu used humor in his films. Most know of the filmmaker’s more serious work but he actually started out writing jokes for films. Cairns argues that there has been a silly streak that’s run through his career and provides several examples.

There is an interview with film scholar David Bordwell who examines Ozu’s style as it evolved from I Was Born, But… to Good Morning. He argues that the latter is one of his best films if only because it shows a different side of the filmmaker. He points out that despite the often silly tone, Ozu still experimented visually in terms of framing, for example.

Also included is I Was Born, But… in its entirety. It focuses on two young boys who are troublemakers, which is also similar to the young protagonists in Good Morning.

Finally, there are only 14 minutes that exist of Ozu’s 1929 silent comedy A Straightforward Boy. It was the first time he used children as a way to comment on society.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 97%

Website: https://www.criterion.com/films/624-good-morning

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