Yasujirô Ozu is best known for directing the likes of Tokyo Story and Late Spring; highly emotional dramas exploring the relationships among the members of traditional Japanese families. Both of the aforementioned films are absolute masterpieces in their own right, but they only show one side of the filmmaker’s repertoire. In 1959, Ozu directed Good Morning, which is a far cry from his most well famous efforts — but an incredible movie nonetheless.
Trading heartfelt drama for fart jokes, Ozu’s use of toilet humor in this film is infinitely more impressive than it should be. Utilized here as a bonding tool between young boys and as a form of bizarre communication, Good Morning truly is a movie about flatulence, but it’s much more than that as well. Set inside of a tightly-packed neighborhood in Japan, the film finds brothers Minoru (Kôji Shitara) and Isamu (Masahiko Shimazu) protesting the perceived small talk between their parents and other adults — as well as their refusal to purchase a television — by taking a vow of silence.
It’s a charming, humorous, and generally lighthearted examination of both language and tradition. Though it lacks the emotional impact of some of Ozu’s more dramatic works, Good Morning is one of the director’s best films, and the Criterion Collection has provided a Blu-ray release worthy of such a quality movie.
One of the rare examples of Ozu shooting in color, the Blu-ray looks absolutely incredible, with a new 4K digital restoration. Similarly, the original, uncompressed mono soundtrack is presented in Japanese (with optional English subtitles) and it sounds quite good, given the obvious limitations of the era. There are some top-notch bonus features on the disc, too.
Interviews with film scholar David Bordwell and film critic David Cairns explore Ozu’s unique sense of humor and the way flatulence played a major role in his early directorial efforts. Fourteen minutes of existing fragments from Ozu’s 1929 silent film A Straightforward Boy are included as well, which does a great job of showcasing the technical advancements that occurred over the course of thirty years.
The standout of the release is definitely Ozu’s 1932 silent film I Was Born, But…, which serves as a very obvious inspiration for Good Morning. Featuring a score by Donald Sosin which was recorded in 2008, the feature film explores the relationships between young boys and their parents in a fashion that Ozu seems incredibly fascinated by. While it isn’t nearly as entertaining as his later works, I Was Born But… serves as an appealing look at how a filmmaker can grow throughout their career while also maintaining their interests.
Also included in the release is a booklet including the essay “Structures and Strictures in Suburbia” by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Once again, the Criterion Collection has put a noticeable amount of effort into compiling a package that is worth owning. Fans of Ozu or Japanese cinema in general will find a lot to love with Good Morning. In a year that has been filled with some incredible Blu-ray releases, this is among the best.
Good Morning arrives on Blu-ray May 16th through the Criterion Collection.