Good Morning (Ohayo)

Good Morning (Ohayo)
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Screenplay:Kogo Noda & Yasujiro Ozu
Stars: Masuo Fujiki (Zen), Yoshiki Kuga (Setsuko Arita), Kuniko Miyake (Tamiko), EikoMiyoshi (Grandma Haraguchi), Teruko Nagaoka (Mrs. Tomizawa), Chishu Ryu (KeitaroHayashi), 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)
MPAA Rating:NR
Year of Release: 1959
Country: Japan
Good Morning Poster

Yasujiro Ozu's "Good Morning" ("Ohayo") is a quirky comedy of manners that is filledwith fart jokes and comical misunderstandings and viewed mostly through the eyes of twoyoung children who impose a vow of silence on themselves when their parents refuse tosubmit to the ultimate consumer enterprise of purchasing a television. Set in modern (late'50s) suburban Tokyo, "Good Morning" is an amusing joke on everyday civilizedformalities and the sometimes inane nature of human communication, especially withinfamilies and between neighbors.

Ozu has been described as the most Japanese of all directors, and the backdrop of his 53films was almost always the family. As Donald Richie pointed out in his excellentbook-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 dramaticheights 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 thecontrary, birth, love, marriage, companionship, loneliness, death, all loom particularly largein 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 ofdepth or dramatic range. Because Ozu is concerned primarily with middle-class suburbanlives, his films lack some of the more obvious dramatic intensity of melodramas dealingwith the wealthy or social dramas about the downtrodden. By focusing intently onseemingly small areas of bourgeois life, he expands everyday details into larger events ofhuman 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 buythem the television they so arduously desire. As they are now, in the late '50s electronicsand appliances were important signs of consumerist social standing, and Minoru and Isamufeel left out because their neighbors have a TV and they don't. Although Minoru andIsamu's parents can afford one, they are reluctant to get a TV because the father has heardthat TV "will produce 100 million idiots."

The two boys decide to impose silence on themselves, not only as a protest against theirparents' refusal to purchase a TV, but also because they find most adult chatter to be banaland inane. Phrases such as "Good morning" are, to them, utterly meaningless and, thus,pointless. Their English teacher understands the boys' position, saying, "Well, what theysay is true enough. But, then, everyone has to use words like that. And, perhaps theyaren'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 localwomen's club dues. Mrs. Haraguchi, the treasurer, is suspected of taking the dues becauseshe has recently purchased a new washing machine, but because of social formalities, noneof the other women will come out and accuse her. The story takes a further comic turnwhen the mystery is solved (it turned out that Mrs. Haraguchi's elderly mother had thedues the whole time), but she assumes that, because Minoru and Isamu do not say "Goodmorning" to her the next day, that there must still be bitterness about the ordeal in theneighborhood. Thus, such meaningless phrases as "Good morning" turn out to haveextremely important meaning, although not in a way that is necessarily specific to theactual 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, "GoodMorning" is quite the opposite. Light-hearted while still taking quick jabs at importantsocial imperatives, it is both humorous entertainment and meaningful social satire.

Good Morning:Criterion Collection DVD

AudioDolby Digital1.0 Monaural
DistributorTheCriterion Collection / Home Vision

The image, created in a new digital transfer from a 35-mmlow-contrast composite print in the film's original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1, isgenerally quite good. It is evident, though, that the film was transferred from a print ratherthan negative elements, as the color is not quite as vibrant as one might expect from aTechnicolor picture. The print is clean of any dust or debris, although there is a fairlypersistent vertical hairline that appears from time to time. For the most part, though, it ishardly noticeable. The image has good contrast and a relatively high level of detail, althoughthere 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 simplyconversation with a few sound effects, and the dialogue is always perfectly clear. The trackis also very clean, with no distortion or audible hiss of any kind. The music, often referredto as being like Muzak, has a good overall sound and punctuates the comical aspects of thefilm nicely.

No supplements were included.

©2000 James Kendrick

Overall Rating: (3.5)

James Kendrick

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