View Full Version : Tokyo Story

01-24-2004, 05:44 PM
Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story is near perfection in filmmaking.

I finally got to see this lauded classic on the big screen.
Despite my gripes about the japanese and their deep seriousness when it comes to death, I can step back from their culture and say with all the love I can muster: your culture is fascinatingly unique.

Ozu tells a story that makes a definitive case for treating your parents better. There are some real characters in Tokyo Story. The elder parents who visit their children in Tokyo are just the kind of folks you would want for parents of your own. The children are typical "career" people who want to be seen as good hosts, but don't want to put in the effort. The old couple meander about the film, out of time & place it seems, while their children make gossipy remarks that actually shock you. This film is 50 years old and it could have been shot yesterday. It's only dated in terms of 50's ideals and costumes, and that can't be avoided.
Look past the "formal normal" of the times and you have a universal tale told expertly by one of the great masters of the film medium.

The editing caught my attention immediately: Ozu deftly moves your eyes to new shots that command you to say "beautiful". There is one scene in particular where I said to myself "that scene is worth the price of admission alone". It is a basic, simple shot of the sea waves (3 seconds?) while the father says "the sea is so calm today". Pure poetry. He cuts from that brief shot back to the story, and I've never seen any film where that type of trick is not distracting or dumb. Ozu uses it to enhance the story, and for little things like that I love the man.

The theatre was nearly sold out again (no wonder) and I noticed a lot of wet eyes during the intermission. The theatre manager said to me when I came out: "You're the only one not crying, J!"
I said "I'm not married".

oscar jubis
01-26-2004, 07:26 PM
Originally posted by Johann
. The old couple meander about the film, out of time & place

This is the first (and best) film that perked my interest in Japanese society after their defeat in WW II. Obviously the Emperor's decision to attack Pearl Harbor and other Pacific rim areas was not very wise. The children in Tokyo Story and their generation had plenty of reasons to look down on their elders, whose support for imperialism sank Japan into poverty, death and despair. This is the unspoken background for the behavior seen in the film.

01-27-2004, 07:20 AM
Great info oscar. I never had any interest in Japan AT ALL until I saw Kurosawa's Dreams in '96. So I'm running on barely 7 years of looking at the culture, and mostly thru film.

Ozu's I Graduated, But... exists as only an 11 minute fragment.
It concerns a recent college graduate looking for work but finding none. He finally gets offered a position *as a receptionist* which he turns down, insulted: "Excuse me, but I graduated college!"

He continues to look for work, and when the money his wife's mother gave them to help out starts to dry up, he is forced to go back to the office that offered him the receptionist job.
"It must have been hard for you" says the boss.
"You have matured. You will work as an employee, not a receptionist".

And so that's how the silent fragment ends, with an optimistic grad landing a job, his wife waving to him as he heads out for his first day.

Ozu's I Was Born, But... is a silent classic that I missed in my viewing travels. It's as funny as any Chaplin or Keaton silent, and you WILL laugh very hard at the two twin boys who dominate the screen with their hilarious personalities.
They're angry that their father must kow-tow to his boss.

"Why aren't YOU the boss?"
"It's not that easy" says Dad.
"You are a NOBODY".
(*the crowd at the cinematheque all let out a collective "oooh" when that line was shown*)
The kid gets a spanking but his point is made...
Scene after scene of the rambuctious kids raising hell should give you a worthwhile rental or ticket purchase.

And Ozu's The Only Son was the last film I saw at the cinematheque before I headed back to Calgary (my old job offered me even more money and "money makes the world go 'round"...)
This film is considered better than Tokyo Story by some film critics, and I know why.
It is a hard-hitting emotional masterpiece that centers on a mother and her "only son".

He's a smart child-so smart he lies to his school teacher about his mother's agreement to pay for high school-and he is sternly but fairly raised.
His mother decides to pay for his high schooling: "If you don't go and all the other ones do, I will regret it. Study hard and become a great man. Understand?"
End of part one.
Now we meet her son in the present day, a substitute mathmatics teacher, and he is getting ready to have his mother visit him in Tokyo for the first time in approximately 10-15 years.

She doesn't know he lives in a two-room parlour, or that he's married or that he has a baby son. She's in for some shocks and disappointments. The class structure in Japan is harsh, and she expected him to become a "GREAT MAN", and he has merely eked out a job as a sub teacher (!) married a slut (!) and had a child that he never told her about (!)
"The Only Son" gets some life lessons from mama-san when she demonstrates the old adage "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy".

The best scenes are the scenes when her son takes her to a "talkie" German film and she can't seem to stay awake...

oscar jubis
03-17-2004, 01:38 AM
I Was Born but... is the only Ozu film I've seen made before World War II. The war serves as a convenient line separating the two distinctive periods in his creative output. It is said that the earlier films are funnier and more melodramatic and feature more "expressive" technique than his later films, generally speaking. In his post-war films, Ozu lets the camera settle into the still long-take contemplation of his characters. Given his preferred themes and his acute observations, I was surprised to learn that Ozu never had children. Goes to show...

I thank you for taking the time to write in detail about I Graduated but... and The Only Son. Printer got busy.

03-17-2004, 01:52 AM
I would have liked to have seen the complete Ozu retro (35 films!)
at the cinematheque but to quote Lennon, life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.

Ozu has a style all his own- he imitates no one.