“Seasons of Ozu: Late Films of a Japanese Master” Free Series at the Clark

For Immediate Release

May 16, 2008

In anticipation of the June 22 opening of Stone Hill Center, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute will present “Seasons of Ozu: Late Films of a Japanese Master.” This free series of four films masterfully designed by Yasujiro Ozu at the end of his career revolves around the theme of the seasons in his depiction of domestic life in Japan during the postwar years of cultural change. All films are in Japanese with English subtitles, and will be shown on Fridays beginning June 6 at 4 pm.

June 6 kicks off the series with Early Summer (Bakushu) (1951, 125 min., unrated). Six years after surrender, the American occupation is invisible, except in the subtle struggle between the old ways and the new, between traditional Japanese norms and the influx of modernity. A 28-year-old woman lives in a well-off seaside suburb of Tokyo, with her retired father and mother, as well as her doctor brother and his family. Played by the incomparable Setsuko Hara, she’s an independent-minded working girl gradually succumbing to matchmaking by all around her, until she has to make up her own mind. Another Ozu favorite, Chishu Ryo, plays her irascible brother. In Ozu’s signature style, this film is quiet and controlled, yet funny and moving.

On June 13, Equinox Flower (Higanbana) (1958, 120 min., not rated), Ozu’s first color film, blooms with a distinctive Japanese aesthetic. Again the family is the crucible for tensions between a traditional society and liberalizing Western ways. A businessman punishes his daughter for choosing her own mate while advising the daughters of his friends to follow their own hearts. With gentle humor the patriarch is oh-so-slowly brought round to self-recognition by the deferential strategies of the women around him.

In Late Autumn (Akibiyori) (1960, 128 min., not rated) on June 20 Setsuko Hara is not the daughter this time but a young widowed mother, who must convince her only daughter to marry and leave her to live alone. Each of Ozu’s late films reworks the same themes in the same strictly stylized manner. They are all the same but utterly different, and the audience is taken unawares, by laughter and tears, but most of all by compassion.

The series concludes on June 27 with The End of Summer (Kohayagawa-ke no aki) (1961, 103 min., not rated). Like Jane Austen’s novels, all Ozu’s films are obsessed with the economic and emotional task of making a good marriage, but this one ends with a funeral instead of a wedding. The retired patriarch of a family of three daughters is more involved in his own love life than marrying them off properly. In the “New Japan,” the beauty of traditional ways is on display but on the way out, their passing comic as well as sad.

The 32,000-square-foot Stone Hill Center is designed to blend gracefully into the hillside just south of the Clark’s main entrance, where it is integrated into the surrounding 140-acre campus through a network of scenic trails. The two-story, wood-and-glass building provides generous vistas of the countryside, with a terrace and outdoor café offering a panorama of the Green Mountains and Taconic Range. Stone Hill Center houses two intimately scaled gallery spaces and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC). The building’s design provides visitors on the terrace or in the courtyard the chance to see conservators at work in their studios.

The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (daily in July and August). Admission June 1 through October 31 is $12.50 for adults, free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. Admission is free November 1 through May 31. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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