Good Morning (Ohayo) [DVD]
Screenplay : Kogo Noda & Yasujiro Ozu
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1959
Stars : Masuo Fujiki (Zen), Yoshiki Kuga (Setsuko Arita), Kuniko Miyake (Tamiko), Eiko Miyoshi (Grandma Haraguchi), Teruko Nagaoka (Mrs. Tomizawa), Chishu Ryu (Keitaro Hayashi), Keiji Sata (Heichiro Fukui), Koji Shigaragi (Minoru), Masahiko Shimazu (Isamu), Hajime Shirata (Kozo), Haruko Sugimura (Kikue Haraguchi), Toyo Takahashi (Shige Okubo), Haruo Tanaka (Haraguchi), Eijirô Tono (Tomizawa)
Yasujiro Ozu's "Good Morning" ("Ohayo") is a quirky comedy of manners that is filled with fart jokes and comical misunderstandings and viewed mostly through the eyes of two young children who impose a vow of silence on themselves when their parents refuse to submit to the ultimate consumer enterprise of purchasing a television. Set in modern (late '50s) suburban Tokyo, "Good Morning" is an amusing joke on everyday civilized formalities and the sometimes inane nature of human communication, especially within families and between neighbors.
Ozu has been described as the most Japanese of all directors, and the backdrop of his 53 films was almost always the family. As Donald Richie pointed out in his excellent book-length study of Ozu, "The life with which Ozu is concerned in so many of his films, then, is traditional Japanese bourgeois life. It is a life singularly lacking in the more dramatic heights and depths found in a society less conspicuously constrained. This does not imply, however, that such a traditional life is less affected by the universal human verities; on the contrary, birth, love, marriage, companionship, loneliness, death, all loom particularly large in a traditional society because so much else is ruled out."
Richie hits on an important point here, and one that many viewers will mistake for a lack of depth or dramatic range. Because Ozu is concerned primarily with middle-class suburban lives, his films lack some of the more obvious dramatic intensity of melodramas dealing with the wealthy or social dramas about the downtrodden. By focusing intently on seemingly small areas of bourgeois life, he expands everyday details into larger events of human drama and comedy.
In "Good Morning," there are several parallel plots that involve neighbors in a small, suburban housing development. One plot follows two brothers, Minoru (Koji Shigaragi) and Isamu (Masahiko Shimazu), respectively aged 13 and 7, whose parents refuse to buy them the television they so arduously desire. As they are now, in the late '50s electronics and appliances were important signs of consumerist social standing, and Minoru and Isamu feel left out because their neighbors have a TV and they don't. Although Minoru and Isamu's parents can afford one, they are reluctant to get a TV because the father has heard that TV "will produce 100 million idiots."
The two boys decide to impose silence on themselves, not only as a protest against their parents' refusal to purchase a TV, but also because they find most adult chatter to be banal and inane. Phrases such as "Good morning" are, to them, utterly meaningless and, thus, pointless. Their English teacher understands the boys' position, saying, "Well, what they say is true enough. But, then, everyone has to use words like that. And, perhaps they aren't really so unnecessary after all. The world would be rather dreary otherwise."
At the same time, the adults are embroiled in the mystery of what happened to the local women's club dues. Mrs. Haraguchi, the treasurer, is suspected of taking the dues because she has recently purchased a new washing machine, but because of social formalities, none of the other women will come out and accuse her. The story takes a further comic turn when the mystery is solved (it turned out that Mrs. Haraguchi's elderly mother had the dues the whole time), but she assumes that, because Minoru and Isamu do not say "Good morning" to her the next day, that there must still be bitterness about the ordeal in the neighborhood. Thus, such meaningless phrases as "Good morning" turn out to have extremely important meaning, although not in a way that is necessarily specific to the actual words.
Although not one of his most complex films, "Good Morning" is still one of Ozu's finest. While his work has often been criticized for being too slow and detail-oriented, "Good Morning" is quite the opposite. Light-hearted while still taking quick jabs at important social imperatives, it is both humorous entertainment and meaningful social satire.
|Good Morning: Criterion Collection DVD|
|Audio||Dolby Digital 1.0 Monaural|
|Distributor||The Criterion Collection / Home Vision|
|The image, created in a new digital transfer from a 35-mm low-contrast composite print in the film's original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, is generally quite good. It is evident, though, that the film was transferred from a print rather than negative elements, as the color is not quite as vibrant as one might expect from a Technicolor picture. The print is clean of any dust or debris, although there is a fairly persistent vertical hairline that appears from time to time. For the most part, though, it is hardly noticeable. The image has good contrast and a relatively high level of detail, although there was some slight shimmering on the clothing.|
|The Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural soundtrack is quite good. Despite being mono, it has a nice depth and good range. The majority of the film is simply conversation with a few sound effects, and the dialogue is always perfectly clear. The track is also very clean, with no distortion or audible hiss of any kind. The music, often referred to as being like Muzak, has a good overall sound and punctuates the comical aspects of the film nicely.|
|No supplements were included.|
©2000 James Kendrick