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

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

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.