After making such a profound, simple, beautiful statement on the nature of death in Tokyo Story, I wonder if Yasujiro Ozu did not have the strength to peer so boldly again. His films after Tokyo Story seem to drift further into a realm of purely aesthetic preoccupations perhaps best evidenced by his 1961 film The End of Summer (小早川家の秋 "Autumn for the Kohayagawa Family"). It's the first of his colour films to really deal with death and although there is something of mono no aware, the sad, serene cognisance of life's inadequacy, the film is much broader and less interesting.
Setsuko Hara gets top billing as Akiko, the widow of a professor whose family is trying to arrange another marriage for her, but most of the film is spent with Ganjiro Nakamura's character, Akiko's father in law Manbei Kohayagawa. His wife having passed away some years earlier, he's secretly reinitiated a relationship with his former mistress and the film largely consists of Ozu's gentle perspective on Manbei's banal naughtiness and the indignation his children feel as they attempt to catch him in the act.
Ganjiro Nakamura has a natural, obstinate, elfin charm about him which helps the viewer feel inclined to forgive him. Though considering he's an unmarried man spending time with an unmarried woman, there's not much really to forgive. His previous film with Ozu, Floating Weeds, cast him as someone with genuinely abusive tendencies, the contrast with his natural charm helping to make that a much more effective film.
But the point in End of Summer in portraying the morally muddy, complex people is to show humanity in contrast to an absence of all this in death.
Ozu constructs several shots of crows gathering accompanied by ominous music, conspicuously playing intentionally to clichéd symbols in contrast to the silent, brutal shots of the seaside in Tokyo Story. It's almost as though Ozu is trying to lend death a sort of familiar charm, too.
One can see Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu as being in many ways opposites. Kurosawa's Ikiru stands as an interesting contrast to Tokyo Story in how one ought to confront death and the epiphany of isolation from loved ones. More superficially, it's easy to point to the adaptations the two directors made to evolving filmmaking techniques in the 1950s. Kurosawa didn't start shooting in colour until the late 60s, feeling it made movies look like postcards, but readily embraced widescreen. Ozu never made a black and white film again after his first colour film in 1958 but never abandoned the old 4:3 aspect ratio.
Perhaps it says something about The End of Summer that one of the most amazing things about it to me is that Ozu switched from using small red objects in each of his compositions to sometimes using small yellow objects--especially this butter dish which made appearances in his previous colour films.
Twitter Sonnet #627
On the tundra lounged a brand new fox pelt.
Unseen glacier fires burned a fortress.
On prison bars dolphin soap figures melt.
Himalayan giants test a mattress.
Democracy discounts turquoise dishes.
Musing taxi fares may answer nothing.
Mirror screens make ten Lillian Gishes.
The egret thinks that Ahab is bluffing.
A decade's millimetre goes to show.
Misspelled substitute turns lead to languor.
Ribbons fall on the pretty freeway bow.
Sleeping Horse isn't blamed for the detour.
Abbots parse through god's white macaroni.
A metal world has seduced Marconi.