Tokyo Story (1953)

24 Feb

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Yasujirô Ozu’s much praised masterpiece Tokyo Story has been re-released courtesy of Madman Entertainment, six decades on it is still a landmark in auteur cinema.

Loosely based on Leo MacCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow, the film follows an elderly couple whose grown children have developed lesser values that reflect the changing world in post-war Japan. Making their way from their small village into the big smoke of Tokyo city, Shūkichi and Tomi embark on the journey of a lifetime, setting out to visit their adult children and meet their grandchildren. Their arrival, though anticipated, is met with ambivalence and outright irritation by the younger generations. The only person who seems to genuinely care about the couple’s welfare is their widowed daughter in law, the touchingly lovely Noriko. Driven out by their selfish children, Shūkichi and Tomi head home early, but tragedy will bring the family together one last time.

The themes of degrading societal values, and waning familial ties are ones which are as relevant today as they have ever been. Yasujirô Ozu’s film making too stands the test of time. Shot almost entirely at medium and long distance, with little camera movement, Tokyo Story is more an artistic love letter to a Japan of a bygone era than a mere melodrama. Critics at the time wondered if it was not too innately Japanese to appeal to an international audience, and it’s true that the uniquely Japanese gentility is at times distancing, but Tokyo Story is laden with enduring qualities that justify its re-release.

A must for cinephiles.

 

Ed.

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