Sunday, 24 September 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1949: Chishū Ryū in Late Spring

Chishū Ryū did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Shukichi Somiya in Late Spring.

Late Spring is a beautifully realized film about a young woman who is pressured to be married, but tries to stay with her father.

Chishū Ryū's performance as the older father, and professor Shukichi Somiya is a particularly understated one. This is notable though as a challenge in its own way though as it is needed for the tone of the film, but also for the nature of the character. What is remarkable about his work though is how effective it is despite how quiet it is. This is even more notable though because this isn't a performance as a character who is quietly in anguish or anything like that, not truly anyways. This is just a normal man living his life, that we get a window into after he has been widowed sometime before, and his adult daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara) still lives with him in order to take care of him. Shukichi though is not ailing in any way we meet him just as he lives his life and still performs his duties as a professor. As we see him just sort of go about his day in his rather low key way fitting to a man of his position and age there's a certain charm to Ryū's performance. There isn't anything overt about this he just makes Skukichi this likable old man who expresses his personal knowledge without ego, just as modestly as you'd expect from someone who would rather share it, than brandish it in a way.

This performance though seems a challenge in a particular way in that as a performance it does not have the usual tenets of an inherently compelling performance. If I merely described what Ryū's does in the role, considering how unassuming he is, it may even sound boring, but it's not at all the case. This performance is an exceptional display again of what can be done in silence, and really in appealing to just a simply truth of a person. This is not to say Ryū's performance is even simple by any means, but rather what he does is capture the simplicity of life, but not in a simple way. The years of this man's life are within Ryū's performance that does not seem to have an acted moment within it. Ryū's work is genuine in every regard as you do just feel as though you are meeting the man living the life as he does, but how honest every scene is through his performance. It's interesting in the way he is very much engaging in this approach. He never wrongly acts out yet creates interest in this man by just always showing us to be an unmistakable person, with his own history, we are watching, never just some character created for the confines of this story.

The focus of the story is between the daughter and father. Ryū's and Hara's chemistry is essential to the film. Again it is an unassuming yet remarkable connection that the two realize in their scenes together. As in every moment of their interaction the years of tender affection between the two of them is an accepted if technically often unstated truth. The film focuses though as the father, in part due to pressures of friends and relatives, to attempt to apart his advice for his daughter to marry despite her wanting to stay with him. The original prodding by Shukichi to his daughter, might not seem especially important, yet they way Ryū plays these scenes is pivotal to the eventual end result of the film. Ryū's portrays no desire to rid himself of her, or a single bit of absentmindedness rather only the most sincere warmth as he suggests a potential suitor. Ryū importantly never depicts a pressure in Shukichi's suggestions but only the most earnest support for her. Ryū doesn't make these moments a father trying to force his daughter into anything she doesn't want, but trying to connect her with what he believes will allow her to find some happiness in her life.

The matter seems to become more difficult though when Noriko directly reveals her intention not to marry in order to take care of her father. Ryū's work is quite moving in the quiet reactions in this moment as he creates the sense of appreciation in the father, before the father tries to reject the notion by stating that he intends to remarry. Ryū places still only such a sincerity in his appeal to his daughter, as he does not show any intensity or bitterness in the idea of trying to get his daughter to leave. There is such genuine poignancy that Ryū finds in telling her to leave him and attempt to find her own happiness, because he makes this technical rejection of sorts filled with such heart and such a sense of the very real love the two have shared as father and daughter over the years. He eventually convinces her to be married, and this is where Ryū's performance took me off guard. Now I already thought he was incredibly effective in just giving this authentic modest portrayal of this man, but the extent of the power of this performance removed the floor out from under me in the final minutes of the film. In the final minutes Noriko is married leaving Shukichi to reveal to a friend that he was never going to remarry. Now the revelation of this lie is not a drop of the facade but rather merely a part of the truth of what we had seen of the man through Ryū's heartfelt performance. When he returns home alone for the first time living by himself, Ryū's is absolutely heartbreaking in revealing the loss of the man, the sadness that is in part of letting go. This again is no switch or anything like that. It is as authentic as the rest of his work, and that is what makes it so special in the revelation, though we really always knew it, that the father loved his daughter and will miss being with her. Ryū's work is outstanding as he creates such a eloquent and downright devastating portrait with such seemingly profound grace.

26 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings/Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Luke Higham said...

We could have a new winner here.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

The review has a very Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt vibe, I think he might be second after one of Mifune's performances.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the editing in Jaws.

Charles Heiston said...

I saw this recently. Such a powerful performance. He could take this.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 20 actresses with the best voice.

Matt Cofrancesco said...

Louis/anyone else who wants to answer: What do you think of Ozu's directing style?

Giuseppe Fadda said...

@Matt: He's one of my favorite directors ever. All of his movies that I've seen are both a visual marvel and a beautiful, poignant, intimate observation of human behavior.

Ryū's performance here is amazing. His last scene was devastating.

Calvin Law said...

I saw Stronger. Kind of reminded me of Lion. Could have done without some of the more familiar story beats, it rushes to its conclusion a bit, and at times an unnecessary sentimentality seeps into an otherwise refreshingly blunt and unfussy approach. It packs a real emotional punch though, has some surprisingly innovative directorial touches by David Gordon Green, and has a terrific central performance.

Gyllenhaal - 4.5/5 (his best performance since Nightcrawler)
Maslany - 4
Richardson - 3.5
Sanz - 3.5

Everyone else is fine, although some aren't entirely necessary.

Anonymous said...

Calvin: Gyllenhaal is great in that film? Thank God.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I didn't have much doubt with Gyllenhaal after the RT score. If he's leading a well-reviewed film, then he's bound to be really good at least.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: You didn't add Kingsman: The Golden Circle to your rankings.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: adding them in a bit.

Louis: did you get an 'Oh no' at the sight of Billy Zane on Twin Peaks?

Michael McCarthy said...

I also saw Stronger today. I have a lot of issues with the film, but Gyllenhaal is very good. I think his performance here will stay with me better than his turn in Demolition.

Luke Higham said...

Michael: So he's probably gonna get a strong 4.5 then. Do you think his chances of a nomination are fairly strong this year.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: I'm almost certain he'll get in.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Bison's Bisonotropolis speech and Guile's speech in Street Fighter.

Anonymous said...

Don't we always say that though, keep in mind Jake Gyllenhaal has only been nominated once and it was ages ago.

Henry W said...

"I'm sick and tired of people doing the same old Brando-esque mumble-core Massachusetts method acting shtick in film. Affleck did it last year in Manchester by the Sea, now we're getting more of the same".Those were my initial thoughts going into the screening room for Stronger. Surprisingly, there was a great deal more depth to Gyllenhaal's performance than that though. He gave an emotive and raw performance and in a career full of mesmerising turns, once again manages to disappear into the man he is playing. The rest of the cast isn't anywhere near his level aside from Maslany. He should get a strong 4.5. The film however is very flawed and emotionally sappy however. I can imagine Louis having issues with it as with others here as well.

Calvin Law said...

Heather Graham on Twin Peaks is the biggest killjoy ever.

Henry W said...

Btw, the way that Ryu plays it here, very unassuming and reserved, reminds me of Montgomery Clift in a way. Ryu's most important moments, the money moments if you will, are the most innermost reactions and thoughts, so subtle in their connotation. It almost appears as if he isn't acting, but simply being, if you will. Brilliant performance here.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is there a lineup planned for '49 supporting or is it just Hernandez.

94dfk1 said...

Early reactions for Blade Runner: 2049 are very positive.

Luke Higham said...

Thank Goodness. :)

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Hara - 5(Like Ryu her performance is defined by just how natural she is throughout the film, and just how compelling she is while giving such a quiet performance. Again this isn't about revealing the hidden pains of the character, though she does have a few secrets in her, it is just about revealing this normal person for all they are. Working with Ozu she does this so well in that she makes her this quietly charming person, who seems sweet, yet strong willed in her moments of refusing the numerous proposals. Those moments though is where she's so terrific in revealing sort of that concern for her father, but also the very idea of letting go that feels so honest. Her work is deeply moving as is his since again it feels like they let you absolutely know both of these people, completely emphasize with their plights, yet do it with such notable ease.)

Anonymous:

One of the best edited films of all time I would gather at is very much one of those films where the editing knows when to make its presence known so to speak and when to stay quiet in a way. The cuts are so carefully utilized within the horror scenes and are pivotal in helping to create those moments of such tension. It never overwhelms in those moments, but plays with you in a way that is most effective since there are those switches, that are sudden yet don't exploit. I have particular affection for the cut from the shark's appearance to immediately cutting the opposite for that spring to attention reaction by Scheider. When its really called upon though so to speak though it is downright outstanding particularly in the final fight as it so masterfully, along with Williams Score, creates Spielberg's vision of one of the best singular climaxes
of film history. In that bottling up moment that leads right up until the explosion.

Anonymous:

Kathleen Turner
Joan Greenwood
Elizabeth Hartman
Isabella Rossellini
Lauren Bacall
Mercedes McCambridge
Greta Garbo
Holly Hunter
Alfre Woodard
Bette Davis
Cate Blanchett
Sissy Spacek
Emily Blunt
Rosalind Russell
Edith Evans
Audrey Hepburn
Maggie Smith
Linda Hunt
Sigourney Weaver
Emma Stone

Anonymous:

Basically cover the bisonopolis speech in Julia's review. Guile's speech though I think should go down as the grand bit of cheese as 90's speeches go even if old Jean Claude Van Damme probably isn't the greatest orator, in English anways, I certainly greatly prefer it to the Independence day to be sure particularly for the hilarious crowd reactions throughout the scene, and Simon Callow's performance as stereotypical British official who just can't believe the speech wen the way it did.

Calvin:

Zane's not exactly a sight for sore eyes, and to be fair Zane's brand of "acting" could have been orchestrated in to something that worked if David Lynch had been around, unfortunately he wasn't or those episodes.

She certainly is.

Anonymous said...

Louis: I'm surprised that Anne Bancroft isn't on that list.