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

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

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...

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.