Tokyo-Ga ★★★½

An intriguing curio by Wim Wenders, as he explores the juxtaposition between hustle n' bustle Tokyo, and the idyllic purity of Yasujirō Ozu's films. In dual parts, it's a robust travelogue for the Electric Town—aided by a typically eclectic jazz soundtrack, and a reverential treatise for the Japanese master himself. As Wenders observes the mass transits, he considers how much has changed in the 20th century. Since the modern world has become so mobile, just what exactly has altered in the past two decades, and could we ever retrieve it?

I do wish that two segments were elided, though. Which are the golf driving ranges and the imitation food displays. They seem like extended filler in order to achieve feature-length, and even with Wender's solemnly lucid voiceover, the succession of shots have belabored the point to ad nauseaum For the most part, I enjoyed Wenders' musings, but a newer segue was required to further ruminate on. It simply observes, for a lengthy duration, at people who've become fixated on recreation.

Still, the rest is fairly riveting, and that's even on the talking-head factor. (One of my usual pet peeves.) From interviewing Chishû Ryû who starred in numerous Ozu films as a father figure, and shares his boundless affection for doing so. Him and Wenders visit Ozu's burial at a nearby cemetery and discuss what entailed in their friendship. Even when he appeared in silent films, Ozu tasked him to "look aged", despite being just 30 years old. Perhaps most dispiriting, is that several Japanese women ask to have a selfie with Ryû, but it's not for being in Ozu's films, and instead for appearing on a recent TV show.

Meanwhile, there's Yûharu Atsuta who's entire career was dedicated as Ozu's cinematographer, and describes a beautiful anecdote they enjoyed about the tripod being his "three-legged girlfriend". Seeing how the gorgeous "pillow shot" is being set-up, with discussions on 50mm lensing, should be a joy for all cineastes, including a tearful farewell that is deeply moving. There's also an appearance by Werner Herzog who's become despondent on the shifting nature of the world. On top of the Tokyo Tower, he gazes at the buildings that seem to have blocked off any surrounding foliage. "I'd have to climb an 8,000 meter mountain to find images that are pure, clear and transparent. I can't do that here anymore."

Any notions of Ozu's remaining world have seemed to dissipate in 1980s Tokyo. Which gets strongly exemplified by other montages: drone-like folk spending time at pachinko arcades, and teenagers who dance rockabilly style among Elvis impersonators. Ultimately, the social and cultural changes Wenders has forged are convincing, without the blatant judgment that could've occurred in lesser hands. We've become more recreational, which is fine, although not for placidly sereneness reasons. That's the striking difference. At least the bullet train goes, and continues to do so, just like Ozu revered.