Saturday, February 23, 2013

257. TOKYO STORY (1953)

Running Time: 136 minutes
Directed By: Yasujiro Ozu
Written By: Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu
Main Cast: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura, So Yamamura
Click here to view the trailer

Note: This is the first time I've noticed this, but I find it interesting that THE BOOK doesn't list the foreign title for "Tokyo Story" ("Tokyo Monogatari"). It USUALLY lists both and therefore I always list them both in the title, however, I'm also very strict with myself about only including what THE BOOK includes, so I left it out here. That's also why a lot of times the years are wrong for some of the movies. Yeah, in case you haven't noticed, A LOT of the cited years that are in THE BOOK are wrong. There usually only off by one year, but I've noticed a lot of deviation from what THE BOOK says to what, for example, IMDB says. Anyway...


So it's time, yet again, for a "hat trick" or three films by one director. I decided long ago that if a single director was able to get three of his offerings into the book of "must see" movies, then they at least deserve a little acknowledgement by yours truly. This time around it's Yasujiro Ozu, who not only has three films in THE BOOK, but two of them are from the 1950s, which fits in perfectly with the 50s theme of this season.

I had heard "Tokyo Story" was a (sort of) remake of "Make Way for Tomorrow", which is a film I watched a couple of years ago for THE BOOK. Therefore, I was pretty excited to watch it, but found out quick that it really wasn't that much like "Make Way for Tomorrow" at all. Shukishi (Ryu) and Tomi Hirayama (Higashiyama) are an elderly couple, who had five children. When the film opens they're packing for a trip to Tokyo where they intend to visit two of their children and their daughter-in-law, who was married to their now deceased son. They'll be leaving their youngest daughter, Kyoko, at home and along the way, meeting their youngest son, who'll pick them up at the train station. When they arrive in Tokyo, a city where they've never been and at the home of their eldest son, Dr. Koichi (Yamamura), they settle in and their initial conversation is probably a lot like the initial conversation you'd have with relatives you hadn't seen in a while - all very natural, not too exciting, a round of greetings and then a sit down to catch up. Their eldest daughter, Shige (Sugimura) also meets them at her brother's house, as well as Noriko (Hara), the daughter-in-law, who seems to be the happiest to see them. In fact, after a while, it becomes apparent that the Hirayama children have obviously grown up, they have their own lives now and their parents, although they'd never tell them this, have become more of a burden that a treat. The parents, meanwhile, are like two fish out of water in Tokyo, a city that seemingly has passed them by and has nothing to offer people of their age. After a lengthy visit, the parents decide to return to their home (many miles away) and consider it a swan song of sorts to their children, bracing themselves for the possibility of never seeing them again (because they live so far away). However, during the train ride home, mother is stricken ill and when they arrive home, her condition only worsens.

On paper, "Tokyo Story" looks as if it COULD be called "Tokyo Boring". I mean, a couple of elders go to Tokyo to visit their kids and then....they visit them...then come home!! Judging by some of the comments I came across on places like IMDB and ICheckMovies, apparently it's also a popular opinion to classify this movie as boring and write it off, as I saw many doing just that. "I feel asleep twice while trying to watch this movie" is a quote from an IMDB user that comes to mind. However, despite my long work days and being very tired at night, I managed to not fall asleep once while watching "Tokyo Story" and while it wasn't setting my world on fire or anything, it certainly kept me interested. Check out this quote from THE BOOK:

"...any human activity, however 'unimportant', is worthy of our attention..."\

I agree 100%. You can literally show me ANY human activity and as long as I'm convinced and understand why said person is doing what they're doing, then I'll be drawn to the screen. Show me a man peeling and then eating an orange and I'll watch it intently and write a review on it. "Tokyo Story" comes down to a lot of dialogue and basic human activity and interaction. The dialogue isn't particularly slick or good - it's very normal, everyday talk. However, observing the interactions between these different age groups, between these parents and their, now grown, children is sometimes fascinating. Watching two elders try and keep themselves occupied in a city that is quickly growing and passing them up - also fascinating, at times. "Tokyo Story" relies on the audiences ability to simply observe. There isn't any high drama, there aren't any great climaxes, twist endings or unexpected surprises. Ozu simply shows us a tale and asks us to observe his characters. I didn't LOVE it or anything, nor do I understand such praise that calls it "one of the greatest movies of all-time", however I didn't mind it and found it very easy to get through. The acting wasn't particularly brilliant, however it was very natural and maybe that's what makes brilliant actors - the ability to be as natural as possible. Go in expecting little and you may be pleasantly surprised.

RATING: 7/10  Honestly, that rating could go down with time, but I'm confident giving Ozu's first offering a '7' for now. Next up for Ozu: "Floating Weeds".


February 23, 2013  10:34pm


  1. Oh great.. so glad you liked this.
    I agree with a lot of what you said..and liked you picked up on the bit about any human activity being worthy of our attention.
    OK, even I may add an 'almost' to the front of that statement, and throw in a 'potentialy between 'being' and 'worthy'.

    My only critism of Ozu is the claim he re-made the same film several times.. and even I get confused between 'Late spring, 'Early summer', 'Late Autumn', 'Somewhere about the middle of summer, but perhaps a bit towards the end. Ish'.. and cannot remember which one I have seen, or even which are real titles and ones I've imagined.

    1. Is "An Autumn Afternoon" part of a series of films that all have seasonal titles?

    2. And by that, I mean, are they connected in a way that in order to watch "An Autumn Afternoon", I need to watch something else first?

  2. Not that I noticed.. I was not aware of any direct connection between them, and certainly no chronology.
    I don't think there were even any characters shared by the films,but they simply shared simular themes.. A generation needing to care care of another, and how far that should go. Will the self sacrifice in fact impose a greater obligation than it releases?
    Someone with deeper insight into the films may be able to see and explain a greater cultural eplanation...

    1. Ok. I didn't think so, but wasn't entirely sure.


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