Tokyo Story

Tokyo Monogatori (Ozu, Yasujiro, 1953)

Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura

An elderly couple journey to Tokyo to visit their children and are confronted by indifference, ingratitude and selfishness. When the parents are packed off to a resort by their busy, impatient children, the film deepens into an unbearably moving meditation on mortality.

I must say it’s odd that so many people ‘voted’ (in the BFI 50 Greatest Films) for Tokyo Monogatori (1953) as being in the top ten best films ever made, when there’s so little about Ozu’s films that’s ‘cinematic’. He doesn’t use any special effects. He rarely moves the camera, in any sense of the word ‘move’. There’s nothing special about his lighting, use of sound, production design, makeup, and so on. Which only leaves the script, the direction, the acting, the editing (at least that’s cinematic, if inchoate). Not to mention more mysterious over-arching characteristics like ‘narrative, ‘poetry’, and even ‘ideology’.

I was disappointed in Tokyo Story, but only because it wasn’t ‘better’ than the first two films of the ‘Noriko trilogy’, Banshun (1949) and Bakushu (1951). In each of them Setsuko Hara portrays a young woman named Noriko, though the three Norikos are distinct, unrelated characters, linked primarily by their status as single women in postwar Japan.

I’m more aware of mutability and mortality than ever before, after Tokyo Monogatori.

Garry Gillard | New: 3 March, 2017 | Now: 9 September, 2018