Tokyo Chorus

"Excellent"

Tokyo Chorus Review


The earliest of three silent comedies directed by Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu and released by The Criterion Collection, 1931's Tokyo Chorus is one of many early Ozu films that clearly telegraph all the thematic concerns he would tackle in dozens of subsequent films while also showing off the very particular techniques that have fascinated students of cinema for decades.

In this simple tale, young and insouciant insurance executive Shinji Okajima (Tokihiko Okada) gets himself fired when he berates his boss for badly treating one of his colleagues. In typical Ozu fashion, there's a bit of slapstick in the argument. Watch as the two men poke each other with Japanese fans with steadily increasing force. It's bad news for Shinji because, like America, Japan is feeling the effects of the Great Depression (Shinji even cracks a joke about Herbert Hoover), and jobs are scarce.

Now concerned about money, Shinji goes back on his promise to buy his son Chounan (Hideo Sugawara) a bicycle. When Shinji shows up with a cheap scooter instead, Chounan is outraged and calls his father a big liar, an insult that earns him an enthusiastic spanking. Mom (Emiko Yagumo), who's busy with their two other kids, urges Shinji to make things right by buying the bike he promised his son. Issues of trust between parents and children is a theme that Ozu revisits throughout his career.

In order to keep the cash coming in, Shinji takes on the humiliating task of passing out restaurant fliers around town--much to the embarrassment of his wife--but when their daughter gets sick and the hospital bill comes due, he takes an even more drastic step, selling his wife's treasured kimono collection without telling her. In a brilliant Ozu moment, the family plays a fast round of four-way patty-cake as an amazing range of emotions passes across Shinji's wife's face: anger at what he's done, sadness about what she's lost, relief that her daughter looks happy and healthy, and then joy in realizing that they're all together no matter what.

All throughout, Okada is a delight to watch. He's as expressive as Chaplin and is a great physical comedian. (It's sad to learn he died just three years after making the movie at the very young age of 31.) Ozu doesn't give the Okajima family a traditional happy ending, but he wraps things up warmly with a celebration of loyalty among friends, people helping others even when they don't really have the means to do so, and families sticking together through tough times.

Aka Tokyo no kôrasu.

The rest of the band couldn't make it.



Tokyo Chorus

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 1st December 1982

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Production compaines: Shochiku

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: Tokihiko Okada as Shinji Okajima, Emiko Yagumo as Tsuma Sugako, Hideo Sugawara as Sono Chounan, Hideko Takamine as Sono Choujo, Tatsuo Saitô as Omura Sensei, Chôko Iida as Sensei no tusma, Takeshi Sakamoto as Rou-Shain Yamada, Reikô Tani as Shachou, Kenichi Miyajima as Hisho, Isamu Yamaguchi as Kaisha no Douryou

Also starring: ,

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