I'm just becoming acquainted with Yasujirō Ozu. I recently rented Late Spring, which is probably his most famous movie. It's a romantic comedy. Very cute, but incredibly smart. It's about a woman who is a little older than normal marrying age (late spring, get it?) who lives with her widowed father and takes care of him. In order to get her to marry, the father pretends he is going to remarry. This is an incredibly beautiful, lyrical movie about two people who love each other very, very much but have to part. I fell in love with it immediately. The lead actress in the film, Setsuko Hara is beguiling and beautiful, and I fell in love with her as well. Her smile will make you melt, I promise. Ozu is well known to American audiences, so it's kind of embarassing that it has taken me so long to see one of his films. I should never have waited. The next one is one its way.
I also caught Isao Takahata's 1988 anime film Grave of the Fireflies, which is about two young orphans whose parents are killed during the bombings on Tokyo in World War II. The two go to live with their monster of an aunt for a while, but finally shove off on their own. The film begins with the death of the boy, so I guess it isn't giving too much away to say that this is a sad movie that does not end well. The thing is, saying that the movie is sad doesn't do Grave of the Fireflies justice at all. It's easily the saddest animated film I've ever seen. I was a mess. The portrait of devastation in Japan is incredibly moving and this story of a brother and sister trying to survive in the wake of war knows how to pull on its audience's heartstrings. Takahata knows what he's doing, too. He is influenced by the Japanese masters and his work reflects classic Japanese cinema. He even composes one of his shots to look exactly like a famous shot in Kon Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain.