Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story ★★★★

This was the first Ozu film that I saw, several years ago. At the time, I thought it was a well-made movie, and I could see the appeal, but it didn't really connect with me. Maybe it was Ozu's style of framing his actors head-on, combined with my unfamiliarity about Japanese social mores during the 1950s, but the parents' dilemma was a little too mannered for me the first time around.

This is definitely a case where revisiting was worth it--perhaps because I've seen several more Ozu films in the years intervening, and gotten used to his style of setting up shots, or perhaps because as a now-middle-aged-dude with elderly parents the subject matter feels a bit more personal, but the things that used to bother me a little the first time around (such as the parents' nonstop smiling) seem more powerful this way, a big part of the effort of keeping up appearances, so when father asks mother who they like more, their children or their grandchildren, or when mother and noriko have their standoff over the money noriko wants to give mother, and you can see mores and manners starting to break down, it's all the more powerful. You could even call this an angry film, if you wanted to. (I wouldn't, but you could). Out of the Ozu's I've seen though, it's the closest that his filming style has come to feel like a prison for his characters, locking them into places they don't want to be while at the same time, pushing them into an unfriendly future. And yet, there's an eerie sense of peace and understanding to the whole endeavor. A really remarkable film. If I watch it again in another half-dozen years or so, it may even break me.

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