Tokyo Story (U)

Film

Drama

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

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Time Out says

Thu Dec 24 2009

The director’s own favourite of his 54 movies, Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 film ‘Tokyo Story’ surveys the Japanese family in the American-influenced post-war reconstruction period. The story – never the Japanese master’s greatest interest – is a simple one. It concerns the visits paid to their children in Osaka and Tokyo by an elderly couple (Tomi, 68, and Shukishi, 70) from the southern seaside  town of Onomichi, a quiet fishing port and traditional centre of Buddhist devotion, which was then a day and a night’s train journey from the high-rises, smoking factories and modernity of Japan’s frenetic capital.

Often topping lists of the best films of all time, and a great influence on many great directors of the last half century, not least for its purity of expression, this remains one of the most approachable and moving of all cinema’s masterpieces. Furthermore, Ozu’s style – with its so-called ‘pillow shots’ (introductory shots of yet-unhabited rooms), low, static camera position, unhurried pacing and elaborately composed frames – has come to look, in an age of refreshed minimalism, more and more modern. Also, his main interest – how ordinary human emotions are expressed in the context of the changing modern family – has become ever more fundamental, relevant and richly rewarding.

Ozu’s is a cinema of cumulative impact. The film’s early scenes delve into the cluster of families around Tomi and Shukishi – busy doctor Koichi; no-nonsense hair-salon owner Shige; sweet widowed daughter-in-law Noriko – observing their variously neglectful or dutiful relations with little or no introduction. Shukishi goes on a sake binge with old pals and they discuss their estrangement from, and disappointment with, their offspring. You could say that learning to deal with disappointment is the philosophical, even religious, heart of ‘Tokyo Story’. And the way Ozu builds up emotional empathy for a sense of disappointment in its various characters is where his mastery lies.

Not that the film is without irony, lightheartedness or downright comedy – ‘No Weddings and a Funeral’, anybody? Ozu had fun – and an estimated 43 bottles of sake – collaborating with scriptwriter Kogo Noda  on ‘Tokyo Story’, and his films are as full of spontaneous insights and significant personal detail as those of Ozu-admired Hollywood comedians Ernst Lubitsch or Leo McCarey. But, like Hitchcock, Ozu planned and  storyboarded everything with minute precision; no cutaway to a stone lantern or line of washing is accidental and the slow arc of his film must be attentively imbibed for the film’s overwhelming force to be truly felt.

None of this would be true, of course, were it not for the strength of the performances, and ‘Tokyo Story’ is remarkable for the balance and richness of the ensemble playing by such Ozu regulars as Chishu Ryu (as Shukishi) and, especially, the marvellous, eminently graceful Setsuko Hara whose line, ‘Everyone has to look after their own life first’, is all the more shocking coming as it does from one of the most radiantly selfless characters in the history of cinema.
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Release details

Rated:

U

UK release:

Fri Jan 1, 2010

Duration:

135 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Yasujiro Ozu

Cast:

So Yamamura, Setsuko Hara, Chiyeko Higashiyama, Chishu Ryu, Kyoko Kagawa

Music:

Takanori Saito

Art Director:

Tatsuo Hamada

Editor:

Yoshiyasu Hamamura

Cinematography:

Yuharu Atsuta

Screenwriter:

Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Noda

Producer:

Takeshi Yamamoto

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Ivona Poyntz

Much has been made of alienation and lack of connectivity in this film: I did not see this at all: I saw only the inevitable separation of children and parents once the offspring have fled the nest and become emroiled in their own upbringing. The human race is the only biological form of life on planet earth where the offspring are expected to take care of of take account of their parents, and this is nver easy. Its not that Shige and Kiochi are negletful children: its just that they are bury, with many demands on their lives, and there is simply no space or frame for their provincial, elderly parents in their lives. Ozu shows this with stark clarity.

Ivona Poyntz

Much has been made of alienation and lack of connectivity in this film: I did not see this at all: I saw only the inevitable separation of children and parents once the offspring have fled the nest and become emroiled in their own upbringing. The human race is the only biological form of life on planet earth where the offspring are expected to take care of of take account of their parents, and this is nver easy. Its not that Shige and Kiochi are negletful children: its just that they are bury, with many demands on their lives, and there is simply no space or frame for their provincial, elderly parents in their lives. Ozu shows this with stark clarity.

Technoguy

Tokyo Story is a poignant film by Ozu on the passing of time, the inevitability of loss,the rift between the generations in terms of expectations,the anxiety about change and mortality, the continual motion of life, the resignation to disappointment.The basic story is of the elderly couple, the Hirayamas, from the provinces visit to their grown-up married children in a busy Tokyo. Koichi, a paediatrician and Shige,a beautician, cannot find time out of their busy schedules, despite promising a trip to the theatre and a day out in Tokyo.Only their widowed daughter-in-law Noriko(Hara) has genuine feelings for them and time to share with them, despite working.Her husband died 8 years before in the war. Their blood children pack them off to Atami, a crowded,noisy spa. Shukishi(Ryu) and Tomi are cool with each other but affectionate.They realize they’d rather go home. Tomi’s morbid musings on mortality come out as she watches her grandson pluck grass blades.She visits Noriko for a night stop -over and is overwhelmed by her generosity urging her to forget her son and move on and remarry. Shukishi decides to look up old drinking buddies and proceeds to get drunk saying how disappointed he is with his children’s lives. Shige is very rude when he returns home drunk with his friend. Shige has got a tongue sharper than a serpents tooth reminding her father of his past drinking habits,her mother of her ‘fatness’,she even begrudges the cakes her husband has bought for her parents. The parents return home but Tomi falls sick and dies.The children now race to be by her sick bed and bicker about who gets her things before racing back to their own self-absorbed lives. The film is a study of the erosion of a family unit and ties with the march of modernity and the pace of the building up of post-war industrial Japan.Although nothing seems to happen there are deep complex emotions beneath the small-talk ,daily rituals,social etiquette. Deep feelings ride on a look,a smile, a sigh,a gulp,a change of tone. Ozu captures perfectly life’s stillness especially between Shukichi and Noriko, their grace, selflessness, acceptance and lack of self pity. Ozu’s shooting style is for tatami camera- positioning,little camera movement bringing out the details of physical spaces.The box shaped rooms are filmed allowing people to enter and exit,there is 180 degree cross-cutting between faces, involving spectators.There are many establishing shots of steam tugs,trains,clotheslines,industrial backdrops. I’m glad I saw the previous films of this trilogy, Late Spring, Early Summer to appreciate what a great screen chemistry developed between Ryu and Hara and how their roles and relationship varies from film to film. And ends this one.Unforgettable.

Technoguy

Tokyo Story is a poignant film by Ozu on the passing of time, the inevitability of loss,the rift between the generations in terms of expectations,the anxiety about change and mortality, the continual motion of life, the resignation to disappointment.The basic story is of the elderly couple, the Hirayamas, from the provinces visit to their grown-up married children in a busy Tokyo. Koichi, a paediatrician and Shige,a beautician, cannot find time out of their busy schedules, despite promising a trip to the theatre and a day out in Tokyo.Only their widowed daughter-in-law Noriko(Hara) has genuine feelings for them and time to share with them, despite working.Her husband died 8 years before in the war. Their blood children pack them off to Atami, a crowded,noisy spa. Shukishi(Ryu) and Tomi are cool with each other but affectionate.They realize they’d rather go home. Tomi’s morbid musings on mortality come out as she watches her grandson pluck grass blades.She visits Noriko for a night stop -over and is overwhelmed by her generosity urging her to forget her son and move on and remarry. Shukishi decides to look up old drinking buddies and proceeds to get drunk saying how disappointed he is with his children’s lives. Shige is very rude when he returns home drunk with his friend. Shige has got a tongue sharper than a serpents tooth reminding her father of his past drinking habits,her mother of her ‘fatness’,she even begrudges the cakes her husband has bought for her parents. The parents return home but Tomi falls sick and dies.The children now race to be by her sick bed and bicker about who gets her things before racing back to their own self-absorbed lives. The film is a study of the erosion of a family unit and ties with the march of modernity and the pace of the building up of post-war industrial Japan.Although nothing seems to happen there are deep complex emotions beneath the small-talk ,daily rituals,social etiquette. Deep feelings ride on a look,a smile, a sigh,a gulp,a change of tone. Ozu captures perfectly life’s stillness especially between Shukichi and Noriko, their grace, selflessness, acceptance and lack of self pity. Ozu’s shooting style is for tatami camera- positioning,little camera movement bringing out the details of physical spaces.The box shaped rooms are filmed allowing people to enter and exit,there is 180 degree cross-cutting between faces, involving spectators.There are many establishing shots of steam tugs,trains,clotheslines,industrial backdrops. I’m glad I saw the previous films of this trilogy, Late Spring, Early Summer to appreciate what a great screen chemistry developed between Ryu and Hara and how their roles and relationship varies from film to film. And ends this one.Unforgettable.