Tokyo Story (1953)

“Kyoko: Isn’t life disappointing?
Noriko [smiles]: Yes, it is.”

‘Tokyo Story’, directed by Yasujirō Ozu in 1953, tells the simple story of an elderly couple who travel across Japan to visit their children only to find them too busy to entertain them. After a while they travel back but the grandmother is taken ill and dies so the children follow them for the funeral. The whole plot is concerned with characters traveling back and forth – much like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ but without Tom Hardy and petrol. It is the first movie I’ve watched directed by the legendary Ozu and his style: slow, meditative, austere, takes some getting used to. Much like Robert Bresson, Ozu rejects any attempts at spoon-feeding emotion to the audience eschewing flashy camera movements (in this movie the camera is nearly always static), an overwhelming music score, emotive performances. Once you tune yourself into the style the lives of the characters really get under your skin. The film focuses on inter-generational relationships following the war and, like ‘Rome, Open City’ and ‘Diary of a Country Priest’ tells a small but important story. Highlights are Ozu’s perfect framing and meticulous editing, the understated but beautifully pitched performances, particularly the elderly couple and the languorous cuts between the characters and scenes of urban and provincial Japanese life.

Would I recommend it? ‘Tokyo Story’ isn’t a disposable film. It’s not the kind that flashes brightly then disappears – much like Kurosawa’s ‘Ikiru’ It’s a movie that sits with you for years, maturing and developing as you get older.


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