Plot: What’s it about?
Japan is well-known for the tradition and ethical standards found there, but there is also much modernization and Western influence to be seen. In this film, we watch over a suburb in Tokyo where the lives of the citizens run much we’d expect from an American (or any other urbanized country) suburb around this time period. Most of the men go to work in order to support their families, while the wives take care of the home and spend time chatting with each other. Of course this means gossip and lots of it, so you never know what to take with a grain of salt and what to really believe. In fact, talking seems to be the focal points of all these people and without such volume of it, you’d think their lives would simply fall apart. In the middle of this modern change and such, is one man who wants his family to resist the temptations of one modern device, the television. His two young sons want one badly, but he refuses on the notion that it would destroy their minds as they watched. The boys are none too pleased with this and as such, take a vow of silence until the are given what they demand. it seems as though even without television, something has already changed these two, right along with almost everyone else.
I can’t imagine too many films working with a premise of two boys taking a vow of silence over a television, but Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning works in every facet you can think of. Ozu based this film on a previous effort of his, I Was Born, But…, which was a silent picture. This is a grand Technicolor vision of that movie and I think it stands on its own as a classic. I know this film isn’t a household name like Citizen Kane, but this is an acclaimed film and for very good reason. In addition to directing this film, Ozu also helped to write the screenplay and I think he delivers on all counts. The characters seem simple and familiar, but Ozu uses that to enhance the movie’s impact. So while normal folks could be very boring in a film, Ozu’s characters never become dull or static. If you like Good Morning and want to see more of Ozu’s films I recommend I Was Born, But…, Equinox Flower, Flavor Of Green Tea Over Rice, Tokyo Twilight, Floating Weeds, and Where Now Are The Dream Of Youth? This cast brings the characters to life very well and more than do Ozu’s material justice. I especially liked the work here of Masahiko Shimazu (Late Autumn), Koji Shidara (Late Autumn), Haruko Sugimura (Redbeard, The Written Face), and Kuniko Miyake (Until The End Of The World).
Video: How does it look?
Good Morning has been given a brand new 4K restoration by Criterion (courtesy of Shochiku Co. in Japan) and it shows, in every sense of the word. The 1.37:1 AVC HD image is presented in a full-frame aspect ratio, but that’s ok. Colors are simply bursting at the seams, grain has been severely eliminated and everything else has been cleaned up. The film looks like a night and day difference compared to the original Criterion DVD offering. Granted, it’s not perfect, a few errors do still persist, but the good far outweighs the bad here. Also included are two bonus films (mentioned below): I Was Born, but… and A Straightforward Boy. Neither of these have been given the same treatment, but considering they’re from the late 20’s/early 30’s, take them with a grain of salt.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc features the original Japanese mono track and Criterion has included optional English subtitles. You can’t expect the world from a 1959 mono track of course, but the harshness seems a little too high with this track at times. That might be a minor quibble, but I still think it’s worth a mention. Other than that, this is one of the better mono tracks I’ve heard from this time, with crisp vocals and no signs of distortion I could detect. It’s not perfect, but it does sound very good.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Considering the previously-released Criterion edition contained zero supplements (it’s not often I type that), a fairly good sampling has been added to this new Blu-ray edition as well as some new cover art. I do love Criterion’s art on some of their titles.
- I Was Born, but… – Yasujiro Ozu’s 1932 original silent film as later remade as this (in color).
- A Straightforward Boy – Yasujiro Ozu’s 1929 film, or at least the 14 minutes of it that were able to be salvaged.
- David Cairns – Film critic David Cairns takes a look at humor and its role in Ozu’s films.
- David Bordwell – Film aficionado David Bordwell analyzes some of the differences and similarities between two I Was Born, but… and Good Morning.
- Leaflet – Jonathan Rosenbaum provides some insight in his essay.
The Bottom Line
Good Morning is a complex, but simple at heart film that is hard to describe without spoiling parts. This is a terrific choice for foreign film fans and even for novices looking to get started, and this is the version you’ll want to find. Fans of Ozu’s classic will be head over heels with the way this looks. The new transfer really does make this a standout and the addition of the two bonus films as well as the additional supplements make the older Criterion version obsolete. While the film might not be for everyone, fans should run, not walk, to add this to their collection. Highly recommended.