Tokyo Story Screen 19 articles

Tokyo Story

1953

Tokyo Story Poster
  • A soggy family melodrama weirdly tuned to its content’s cosmic rather than histrionic wavelengths, Tokyo Story remains a jeweled benchmark in the realms of discursive (or, less charitably, failed) storytelling; viewers from the west, far as I can tell, tend to either buy the affront of jagged, sloppy edits and soupily didactic exchanges wholesale, or at least admit their way of getting at humanism without bothering to get at believable humans.

  • Now that I've seen another ten of [Ozu's] films, it's clear that I'm just constitutionally incapable of perceiving his genius—virtually without exception, they strike me as modestly effective, too reserved to achieve the overwhelming catharsis of, say, Shin Sang-ok's My Mother's Tenant (to cite a movie in a similar vein that I do love).

  • The camera remains stationary throughout this delicate study of conflicting generations in a modern Japanese family, save for one heartbreaking moment when Ozu tracks around a corner to discover the grandparents, alone and forgotten. A masterpiece, minimalist cinema at its finest and most complex.

  • To experience a Yasujiro Ozu film is to immerse in the reserved, quiet grace of a disappearing traditional culture. Tokyo Story is a languidly paced, subtly poignant, and exquisitely realized story... Tokyo Story demands little from the viewer, except to sit back and absorb the sweeping, beautiful images that gradually unfold before us towards its muted, heartbreaking conclusion, and from it, derive meaning for our own frenetic existence.

  • It is in Tokyo Story where Ozu’s form reaches its zenith. The apparent lack of plot (not of story, but of story events) is replaced by a series of moments which have a cumulative effect, and of ellipses.

  • In the six films that Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu made together under the auspices of Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, starting with the classic Late Spring and culminating in the heartbreaking Tokyo Story, the interplay between Hara's smiles and Ryu's sighs carried more complex emotion than could ever be verbalized.

  • The Ozu film has the stately pace of a long novel, giving you the same inside-out understanding of its characters that you get from a great book. Its power lies in the slow accretion of detail, until something as simple as a child picking flowers or an old couple taking a bus tour has more impact than many a battle scene. The closing images will haunt the Siren for a long time.

  • Ozu may have made subtler films, but the clarity of his social critique here is wrenching and unassailable.

  • The still shots, the flipping back and forth between speakers looking directly at the camera, the slow delivery of dialogue and complete lack of overlapping or rapid response dialogue, the almost painfully grinding pace of it all… I guess it boils down to a refusal to accelerate anything. Not just the tempo of the dialogue, but even more so, the tempo of the cuts. Ozu will not be rushed. The film is set to a silent metronome from which it uncompromisingly will not budge.

  • There is very little comfort (“Life is disappointing”) and a terrible amount of sorrow (“If I'd known things would come to this, I would have been kinder to her”) in Tokyo Story, which is remarkable given how much there is of the former and how little there is of the latter up there on the screen. How Ozu manages this is the secret of every great master; he trusts the audience to bring to the film a certain level of intelligence and emotional commitment.

  • Ozu's style of filmmaking abjures the showy. This is not to say that his films are visually ugly, or even plain. They are beautiful. In a very unadorned way, a way that is ostensibly true to the reality depicted. To say that Ozu's films are free of artifice is to miss, among other things, the particular way in which his visual storytelling style frequently goes against what's referred to as the 180º rule, and the attendant continuity "errors" that on occasion accompany those.

  • The fact that Yasujirô Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) is one of the great achievements in cinematic history might be motivation enough to catch it at the IFC Center this weekend. But such talk risks pinning behind glass a work of art that still has the power to astonish, disrupt, and shatter hearts.

  • In this exquisite merging of specific and universal, infinite and infinitesimal, Tokyo Story perhaps most clearly illuminates that Ozu is not the most Japanese of filmmakers, but the most human.

  • The capricious way in which this work entered world film culture might make us suspect that its renown is accidental. Surely Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer (1951), to cite only two examples, are no less excellent. Ozu himself hinted at a reservation: “This is one of my most melodramatic pictures.” But Tokyo Story is in fact a generous introduction to his distinct world. It contains in miniature a great many of the qualities that enchant his admirers and move audiences to tears.

  • The film is an epic disguised as a short story, or, more specifically, it documents the largely unceremonious end of an epic that's mostly unseen. The source of the film's brilliance and of its considerable pathos resides in how gradually and subtly Ozu transforms the domestic, “simple” quotidian into the stuff of great universal tragedy.

  • Their visual and thematic consistency can cause some to decry him for having made the same film over and over again (some similar titles can also add to this verdict), but within such standard formal patterns, Ozu conveys remarkable differences from film to film. Desser points out that Ozu considered himself a craftsman, or something akin to a tofu maker; he made one kind of film, but he did it exceedingly well with great care. If that is indeed the case, Tokyo Story may be his finest product.

  • The film embodies Ozu's signature style, which consists of seemingly slow-moving plot and humbly low camera placement. It's widely considered his masterpiece, yet it rejects critical examination. It exists just as his characters do, wholly and unremarkably, and alive in the truest sense of the word. To scrutinize an Ozu film is, like poetry, to vitiate its essence; to ask "why?" is to miss the point completely.

  • True to Ozu’s low-level tatami-eye, we’re there with them at every turn. You participate—save rare instances of sentimental music, Ozu leaves you to behold what’s said and unsaid without relying upon dramatic shots. Instead, he shoots everything square and symmetrical—life is messy but that’s how it fits. Young or old, turbulence helps comprise life’s geometry.

  • Yes, it's a masterpiece, but that status is dangerous. Canon-crawlers new to Ozu are most likely to start here, and this especially minimal classic is not the best entry point: for that, check out something like Late Spring. Then revisit Tokyo Story and believe the hype, as seemingly banal interactions build into a rich portrait of an ordinary family and the forces (both natural and societal) that shaped them.

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