Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu's body of work stretches from 1927 through 1962 and includes more than fifty films. Good Morning was made in 1959 and is the first example of his work that I've seen.
Good Morning (Ohayo) is a good-natured comedy of manners centering on a small Japanese neighborhood. Told from the perspective of two small boys, the plot revolves around their efforts to coerce their parents into buying them a television set. After several failed attempts the boys take a vow of silence in protest, leading to a chain of events that expose the humorous side of structured Japanese social interactions.
Ozu uses low, static camera angles to bring us down to the level of the children and limits the action to a handful of locations. Though the environment of Good Morning is restricted geographically it's endlessly interesting to look at due in large part to Ozu's extraordinary compositions. Each frame of this film is a little masterpiece featuring carefully placed elements and calculated views.
Ozu's technique reminds me of Hitchcock. The pacing in Good Morning is reminiscent of The Trouble with Harry and the cinematography brings to mind Rear Window. Also, as with Hitchcock's best films, there's much more going on here than the surface plot suggests. Each line of dialogue, each prop, every costume and camera angle serve to deepen the meaning of the film and make it a richer and more satisfying experience. The themes explored here are ostensibly Japanese but I found they held a good deal of relevance to the human condition in general.
Criterion comes through again with a beautiful transfer of a significant film. Good Morning seems to have been shot with a Technicolor type process that gives it vibrant primary colors. The reds and yellows are fully saturated and simply gorgeous. Blues and greens are a little muted but may well have been that way originally. The film elements themselves are excellent condition with only occasional instances of scratches and dirt (the 'cigarette burns' are still there but aren't especially intrusive.) I was particularly impressed with the detail of the images and lack of grain. There are no noticeable digital artifacts and edge sharpening has been kept to a minimum (you'll see some evidence of sharpening on shots of patterned clothing where there's a little moire from time to time.)
The mono sound track is in similar condition to the video elements. The dialogue and music are both crisp and clear throughout. There is some hiss here but it's kept to a bare minimum. The overall balance is very even with no major jumps in volume and the dynamic range, though limited, is satisfying on the ear.
The Extras: Good morning is one of Criterion's movie only editions.
I found Good Morning to be satisfying on every level. The plot is engaging and deep, the characters sympathetic and relatable. The cinematic technique employed here is unimpeachable making Good Morning a great example of film as pure art and, above all, it's fun! If you're an action adventure lover you may not find much to like here and if you're an Ozu fan looking for a special edition you'll likely be disappointed. That being said I have to give Good morning a Highly Recommended rating based on high quality of the film and Criterion's superb transfer.