More reflections on Ozu's very particular style after watching the follow-up to Late Autumn. The End of Summer has its fair share of brilliantly framed compositions, which are accentuated by the static camera. The film really is photography with voices sometimes. There are more 'pillow shots' as well – not just used to establish a new scene but to indicate the passing of time or to add space and extend a dramatic moment (frequently using music to do so). Only once is a jump cut used to highlight a contrasting change of tone.
I may have been wrong to describe the actors as looking 'beyond' the camera, and in this film very often Ozu establishes where characters are sitting, and then has them directly address the viewer, with the actors definitely looking at the camera. This should place the audience within the scene, but paradoxically it doesn't. Maybe this is due to the placing of the camera at naval height rather than at eye level (elevating the characters in the process). But also there is something weirdly fourth-wall breaking about a direct address to camera. Ozu's style (perhaps accidentally) creates this intermediate space whereby the audience is continually aware of a world being portrayed, and their fleeting, intercutting presence in it.
Which is a good place to start thinking about the themes of the film. The title's appeal to nature's rhythms is a gloss over the intimate portraits of parents and children and how one generation replaces the next. The End of Summer is about the death of a patriarch, an "incorrigible sinner", an overgrown boy always on his summer holidays. Likewise Late Autumn is about Setsuko Hara approaching middle age, and the choices she has to make as a result. The audience, rather than identifying with particular characters or following a plot, take the part of serene observers of these natural rhythms to human life.