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Tokyo Story

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Japan| 1953. English subtitles. Black and white. 136 minutes.


Considered by many to be Ozu’s finest film, Tokyo Story is unquestionably one of a string of masterpieces from the last phase of his career. He thought it one of his most melodramatic works, but to western eyes it appears a model of formal rigour and restraint in dealing with the emotive issue of family relationships in the modern world. An elderly couple journey with their youngest daughter to Tokyo to visit their doctor son and a daughter who runs a beauty salon. The children are too busy to meet with their parents and send them to a holiday resort. After a sleepless night at a noisy establishment, the old couple return to Tokyo, where the mother visits the widow of another son and the father goes on a drinking spree with a group of male friends.
As always with Ozu, the story is simple. However, no plot synopsis can do justice to the film’s formal perfection and the depth of emotion that is never pushed to the fore but builds slowly to devastating effect. The theme of how time changes the nature of family relationships is universal and will strike a chord with any viewer. What distinguishes Ozu’s family drama is its lack of melodramatic devices and its refusal
to point the finger of blame at either parents or children. His serene and contemplative approach offers a thoughtful meditation on the transitory nature of life. Tokyo Story is not a sentimental film, but it is profoundly moving. Its sense of regret and resignation about the inherent sadness of life is perfectly embodied in the figure of the grandfather played by Ozu’s favourite actor, the great Chishu Ryu.

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