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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Aug 5 1998
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Equinox Flower
This 1958 Japanese film was Yasujiro Ozu's first in color, a form he had rejected a dozen years earlier as "all right once in a while, but if you see it all the time ... you get fed up with it." This isn't the case in what eventually reveals itself to be one of Ozu's most playful works.

As ever at once formally conservative and radically experimental, Ozu took to color as happily, if belatedly, as he had sound. (An established silent director, he'd waited until 1936 to make his first talkie.) The opening credits are in black, white, and red; the same colors dominate the opening scene at a train station. Ozu liked the way red looked on-screen, and so spots of red recur throughout the film, including an amaryllis plant -- the "equinox flower" of the title. Ozu never cared for continuity, and color gave him yet another opportunity to play games with it: A red teapot and red pillow ricochet around the central family's rooms from shot to shot, willed here or there for the sake of composition. (Ozu correctly believed that no one would notice or care.)

Ozu's toying with the rules of film form (the Shochiku Mount Fuji studio logo turns up on the wall of a hotel corridor) carries over into his play with plot and character in a deceptively light work on his favorite theme: a father's need to let go of a beloved daughter. For all its fun, there's a core of seriousness here that at once questions and reaffirms tradition.

-- Gregg Rickman

Equinox Flower screens Wednesday through Saturday, Aug. 5-8, at 9 p.m. (with Ousmane Sembene's Mandabi at 7:15 p.m.) at the Fine Arts Cinema, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste) in Berkeley. There's an additional show Saturday at 5:05 p.m. Tickets are $6; call (510) 848-1143.

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Gregg Rickman

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