Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tokyo Story (1953)

In Tokyo Story Ozu uses a simple story of an elderly couple visiting their middle-aged children to explore duty, selflessness, tradition versus modernity and, most importantly, familial relationships and how these change as we grow older.

This was my first Ozu film and I was hugely impressed. Using a static camera each shot is framed like a painting with the lines created by tatami, shōji, bookcases, windows and doorways emphasising composition and drawing our attention to the characters who form the most important part of this film.

Remembering that it was only less than 90 years ago that Japan had renounced its isolationist policies, Ozu finds various ways to contrast one generation's eastern traditions with the younger's western modernity: the settings of the parent's home in a fishing village with their children's cramped building in Tokyo; the women's mourning kimonos and the men's black suits; a woman's duty to continue to mourn her husband's death and her in-laws wish that she remarry and forget their son.

The character of the humble and selfless Noriko acts as a filter between modernism and tradition. She is the person we would like to identify with but, realistically, we will see our faults mirrored in the behaviour of the others. Noriko is the child that the parents wish they had, instead they are resigned to the fact that their children are selfish, ungrateful, spoiled and have no time for them.

With its slow pace this film may not be for everyone, but to not watch it at least once is to miss out on a type cinema that is very rarely created any more in this world of fast cuts and CGI.

Original letterboxd review

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