Saturday, April 21, 2012

#614. Tokyo Story (1953)

Directed By: Yasujirô Ozu

Starring: Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama. Sô Yamamura

Trivia:  Voted #7 in Total Film's 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time list

In Tokyo Story, director Yasujiro Ozu takes an in-depth look at the family unit, focusing on the conflict that occasionally arises between parents and their children. 

Shukishi Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) and his wife Tomi (Chieko Higashiyama), an elderly couple living in a small Japanese community, travel to the overcrowded streets of Tokyo to visit two of their kids. Son Koichi (So Yamamura) is a doctor, while married daughter Shige (Haruka Sugimura) owns and operates a beauty salon. Also in Tokyo is Noriko (Setsuko Hara), the couple’s daughter-in-law, widowed when their son (and her husband) was killed in the war. Expecting to find them enjoying the high life, the couple quickly learns their offspring aren't as successful as they’d hoped. The situation becomes even more complex when Koichi and Shige, who outwardly claim they're happy to have their parents around, complain amongst themselves that the whole visit is nothing more than an unwelcome distraction from the daily routine. 

Tokyo Story delves into serious issues, like the expectations of parents and the callous manner in which adult children sometimes treat their aging mother and father. Yet Ozu approaches it all with his patented straightforward, almost simplistic style. Never once do these characters resort to emotional outbursts; even at their angriest, they don't shout at one another, or raise their voices in anger. What makes this simple little movie about generational differences so appealing is the fact it's just that: a simple film, filled with subtle, yet poignantly moving moments, never once falling back on the overtly dramatic to drive the point across. There’s not a shred of artificiality in Tokyo Story; every scene rings absolutely true. 

Tokyo Story ends with a tragedy, one that's all the more compelling when viewed within the context of what preceded it. And yet, in the midst of such heartbreak and drama, the movie is just as restrained in its finale as it was the very first scene. From start to finish, Tokyo Story is an honest film.

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