TOKYO STORY, Ozu's masterpiece and a landmark in Japanese cinema, didn't make it to the US until 19 years after its initial release, but American critics were immediately taken with this stately, powerful critique of the family and its discontents.
An elderly couple (Ryu and Higashiyama) journey with their youngest daughter (Kagawa) to Tokyo to visit their doctor son (Yamamura) and a daughter (Sugimura) who runs a beauty salon. The children are too busy to meet with their parents, so they send them to a resort. After a sleepless night in the
noisy resort the parents return to Tokyo. Before leaving, however, the mother spends a night with the widow (Hara) of another son, and the father visits some old drinking buddies. As it turns out, only this daughter-in-law gives the elderly couple the attention and love they need. The couple's own
children soon have cause to regret their neglect, but their emotional ties to their parents have been all but severed by then. It comes as no surprise that they can so easily return to their own self-absorbed lives.
The film may not sound like much in a bald summary, but Ozu's cinema is remarkably powerful for those willing to give it a chance. Ryu is a familiar face in the films of many fine directors, and his marvelous low-key performance is but one of many in the film. Delicately constructed and
deliberately leisurely, TOKYO STORY allows its dramatic content and thematic concerns to envelop an audience the way social mores envelop the films' characters. Ozu seems at once critical of certain aspects of Japanese tradition and reconciled to their status and use value. His trademark
stylistics are equally intriguing, from his casually non-mainstream editing patterns to his limited camera movement. Most famous of all, though, are Ozu's trademark tatami-level shots. Using a special camera dolly to simulate the three-foot height of the average person kneeling or sitting on a
tatami pad, Ozu creates a way of seeing the world that is specifically Japanese. Although one should resist seeing this great filmmaker as simply the most traditional of Japanese directors, his films do mirror the basics of contemporary Japan in a manner fascinating for those interested in this
Of Yasujiro Ozu's 53 films only a few have been released in the US, and 34 were silents directed before 1936, many of which have been destroyed.
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- Review: TOKYO STORY, Ozu's masterpiece and a landmark in Japanese cinema, didn't make it to the US until 19 years after its initial release, but American critics were immediately taken with this stately, powerful critique of the family and its discontents. An eld… (more)