Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tokyo Story by Yasujiro Ozu

This is a movie with quite a reputation, showing up in various best films ever made lists, so I thought I should watch it. Although I did enjoy it, I don't quite get why its such a big deal, although I can see it is a kind of film-maker's film. It was very carefully paced and I noticed several recurring images, such as the way characters were often posed in lines.

This was a movie about family, and yet it was very noticeable how they never touched each other and how there were recurring images of empty rooms.

The basic set up is quite simple: an elderly small town couple go to Tokyo to see their adult children, who have very little time to spend with their parents. The next generation seems worse - the son was portrayed as incredibly selfish and set permanently to whine mode:

They feel guilty that their parents are sitting upstairs doing nothing, so send them off to a beach resort (Atami - just out from Mt Fuji) to do nothing. The parents get a bit fed up with this, decide to go home - not before their kids let them down one more time and they find themselves "homeless".

They find a solution: dad catches up with an old mate and has a big night on the town, getting absolutely plastered
 and has to be taken to his po-faced daughter's

house by the Police.

She is very unamused to find he has brought a mate home and neither can stand up:

Mum, on the other hand, visits with their deceased son's wife, the lovely Noriko,

and is well looked after for the night.
Both parents have a good talk with Noriko, saying that she has to move on, that they won't be worried if she finds someone new to marry, which was kind of sweet - these were among the few times that there was any sort of conversation in which the people connected with each other.

There seemed to be something going on with small town values versus big city ones. The movie is framed by appearances of a cheery neighbour, initially wishing them a happy trip to Tokyo, and then giving Dad a sort of cheery welcome home (although she may not have cheered him as much as she could have, by pointing out how lonely he will be. The parents themselves are particularly dignified

and here, at least, there is one of their children who will stay home and look after them, despite having a job which is just as important as those of her her cityfied siblings

Since the movie is on so many lists of best movies, I am glad I've seen it, and I enjoyed its sombre investigation of the breakdown of family. Unfortunately, some of the characters came across as caricatures - Mum and Dad were incredibly slow moving, although they seemed like decent uncomplaining people.I had thought that maybe the trip to Tokyo was made with knowledge that Mum would not live much longer, because there was talk that they wouldn't be able to make it back up to Tokyo, but I don't think they expected death to come quite so soon. When I think about it, with the effort it took for them to get to Tokyo and their knowledge it was probably not going to happen again, the way their kids acted was rotten: I don't buy Noriko's story that this is what to expect, that kids develop their own life and abandon their parents.


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