Saturday, July 14, 2018

Yasujirō Ozu: 'Tokyo Story' / 東京物語 (1953)

Yasujirō Ozu's Tokyo Story / 東京物語 (1953). This is the kind of movie you could study many times and still pick up new details. It's a masterwork of world cinema, and though I am not a devout believer in rankings and lists, it's worth noting that Tokyo Story has been listed by film directors as the number one film of all time, up to the year 2012. Certainly it's a memorable film.

Tokyo Story provides an effective answer to world wars, Trumpism, the internet "shallows," and ADHD. Tokyo Story is quiet, slow, thoughtful and deep. 

Tokyo Story subtly shows the intricacies of family systems. Three generations are on display, with variations in life station, geography, age and demeanor. There are: one set of parents, four surviving kids (one son, who had been drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army, died in 1945, near the end of the Second World War), one son-in-law, two daughters-in-law, and a couple of grandchildren. Family members have "stories" about each other, and each fit into the system in their own way. There are also friends, mostly old friends, and a neighbor or two. 
Ozu (December 12, 1903-December 12, 1963) uses several distinctive techniques in his craft. One is the low-angle shot, bringing viewers into interior scenes. For transitions, he often shows technology or architecture, exterior (smokestacks, trains, signs, lights, boats) or interior spaces (a room with plenty of traces of human habitation but no people). For plot shifts, he'll jump forward past a milestone event (wedding, funeral) and into ramifications and changes to the status quo. 

The actors: Chishū Ryū (1904-1993), who plays the father, is superb, using facial expression, body language and occasional verbal expressions to maximum impact. Setsuko Hara (1920-2015), in playing widowed daughter-in-law Norika, is delightful, poignant, deep. These two stand out, and yet the rest of the ensemble cast is very believable and forceful, too. 

Lest we forget, Ozu's main screenwriter: Kōgo Noda (1893-1968).

Today's Rune: Joy.  

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