An Autumn Afternoon

One needn't give a hoot about astrology to be visited by an extrasensory tingling when reflecting on the fact that Yasujiro Ozu (1903-63) -- a paragon of cinematic equipoise -- died on his birthday. The films for which the director is most known, like Tokyo Story and Good Morning, exhibit a formal harmony that emerges from Ozu's use of static shots that encase even the most comic and tragic components of his movies in silken understatement. In his final work, An Autumn Afternoon, Ozu tells a simple but deeply nuanced story about a widower's warmhearted efforts to marry off his daughter. Shuhei Hirayama (played by Chishu Ryu) is prodded by his former schoolmate, Koichi (Keiji Sada), to introduce his daughter to a suitor whom Koichi has picked out. Hirayama believes his daughter to be unready for such a step and dismisses the idea -- but an episode that follows gives him second thoughts. After a night out with their former classmates and teacher (Eijiro Tono), whom the chums affectionately still refer to as "the Gourd," Hirayama and Koichi drop the inebriated teacher at home. There, Hirayama witnesses the sad fate that has befallen the Gourd's middle-aged, unmarried daughter as she tends to her dipsomaniac father. Against the backdrop of this deceptively mundane plotline, Ozu slips in grander themes: the ambivalence shouldered by Japanese men who are mindful of the steady Westernization of their country, and the growing enfranchisement of women who are anything but passive. This gem of a movie makes the work of innumerable other talented directors seem hysterical by comparison.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.