Tokyo Story

"Essential"

Tokyo Story Review


The works of director Yasujiro Ozu, who worked for many decades before his death in 1963, embody a certain classical approach to filmmaking in Japan. His films are slow-moving, meditative, and austerely stylized, and they return again and again to the same themes: the life of the family, the interaction between generations, the basic sadness of life and the ways in which honest people can overcome it. His style is so complete in its serenity and his output so monumental that it took a whole generation of younger directors, led by his one-time student Shohei Imamura, to react against him, as though Ozu's influence required a Herculean effort to work out of the Japanese film industry's system. And if cameras were to move, if the underside of life in Japan was to be portrayed on the screen, if violence and sex were to find their way into that country's cinema, it had to be. Ozu's body of work stood in opposition.

Because of the contemplative nature of Ozu's work, Western audiences strive to find something Eastern and spiritual in them. But Ozu's true greatness lies in exactly the opposite quality; below the Zen-like peace of their surfaces, the films tell stories as universal as any ever have. His 1953 Tokyo Story is the classic example: an aging couple travel to Tokyo to visit their children, but find that their children have little time for them when they arrive. Traveling back to their small town, the mother becomes sick and dies, and her surviving spouse and children come to terms with her loss.

There are no fireworks here; if the premise sounds sparse in terms of contemporary filmmaking, the style is even sparser. Ozu favored a static camera in these "home dramas," with a uniform point-of-view from three feet off the ground, and his editing and composition strive for the "invisibility" we find in Renoir. If Hollywood were to attempt a similar story today, it would be all manipulation: a Ron Howard-type of tearjerker, with soft focus and strings poured over the proceedings like syrup. I'm afraid Robin Williams might star. But Ozu's gift was that he trusted his audience to experience the tragedy of Tokyo Story - and similarly themed films such as Floating Weeds and Late Spring - without his interference. Watching a film like Tokyo Story is like people-watching from the point of view of a god.

Tokyo Story didn't receive an American release until 1972, and it occasioned a Western reevalution of a confirmed Japanese master. Criterion has just released the film on DVD with its usual attention to quality, and it will be interesting to see if this masterpiece of restraint and intelligence can find an audience amid the clamor of special effects and fast-cuts that filmmaking has become today. A sleepy but informative audio commentary appends the feature, plus a second disc features two long documentaries about Ozu.

aka Tokyo Monogatari; Their First Trip to Tokyo.



Tokyo Story

Facts and Figures

Run time: 136 mins

In Theaters: Monday 13th March 1972

Distributed by: BFI Production

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 39

IMDB: 8.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Shukishi Hirayama, as Tomi Hirayama, as Noriko Hirayama, as Shige Kaneko, Sô Yamamura as Koichi Hirayama, as Fumiko Hirayama - his wife, as Kyôko Hirayama, Eijirô Tôno as Sanpei Numata, as Kurazo Kaneko, Shirô Osaka as Keiso Hirayama, Hisao Toake as Osamu Hattori, as Yone Hattori

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.