A lot can happen in a still frame, as Yasujiro Ozu knew well. Exactly what's going on in that tapestry back there I have no idea but it's certainly something, I think having to do with Demeter and fertility or the cycle of nature. Or maybe just sex. It's certainly relevant to the subject matter of the film, in any case, which is Early Summer, Ozu's 1951 film, the second in his "Noriko Trilogy" after Late Spring and before Tokyo Story.
Setsuko Hara again plays a Noriko but not the same Noriko. She's another sweet and energetic virgin and is beginning to feel pressure from family and friends to marry. She's less resistant to the idea than the Late Spring Noriko, though, and when she does agree to marry its spontaneously and innocently in a conversation with the guy's mother--the guy in question isn't even present at the time and seems surprised and not particularly joyous--or sorrowful--at learning of his new fiancée. It's his mother that seems ecstatic, and it's clear Noriko went along with the idea because she thought about how happy it would make the older woman.
We don't sense she doesn't understand the seriousness of the undertaking, though her initial pleasure in doing someone a favour seems to turn into a sense of impending doom. Not because she doesn't like the guy, but by the end of the movie we see how the automatic reflexes of society just sort of made things happen the way they did rather than anyone acting out of their own real desires.
As usual with an Ozu film, a lot of time is spent watching normal family life through a low angle, still camera. Noriko lives with her parents, her brother, her brother's wife and their two little boys and early in the movie an elderly uncle comes to visit. We watch everyone eating meals, going about the house, folding laundry. As usual, Ozu somehow makes this all fascinating as we learn about the characters organically. It's the uncle, who casually observes that Noriko's of the marrying age, who gets the ball rolling, though he hardly lectures anyone. It's as though by his presence he's made everyone cognisant of tradition.
The little boys are at the other end of the spectrum, and they're given a lot of attention by Ozu as they continually run up against their family's mature manners and habits, the way children do--deciding to run away from home because their father didn't buy them the toy train tracks they wanted, walking up to adults and grabbing them without a thought, that sort of thing. But in this context it emphasises how the adults are behaving by a proscribed set of rules.
When Noriko and her sister-in-law one night indulge in an expensive cake, they have to hide it from one of the kids when he gets out of bed briefly to use the bathroom. And it serves as a quiet illustration of how the adults have learned to be human only on the side.
Twitter Sonnet #324
Flying street sign arrows exchange nothing.
Elephant grey rubber rain slaps the roof.
Cartoon camel anger croaks a farthing.
Curled Art Nouveau fungus crumples a hoof.
Flat reflections of wrinkled red leaves blur.
Spitting printers have no spite in their ink.
Squeaky skin wants muted layers of fur.
High proof bottles of rum perk up the sink.
Mushroom opera houses trap acoustics.
Hoses aimed up waterfalls are white noise.
Needles silently infect the haystacks.
The cat's cradle Slinkies are static toys.
Curving shovel blades pulp inverted song.
Gutted tubas remember brass guts gone.