Here I am at another Yasujiro Ozu film, the atmosphere feels familiar, the characters feel lived in, family and modernism once again becomes a prominent aspect of this story of disconnection, regret, appreciation, and loneliness. Much like any other Ozu film, the balanced quality to its storytelling, unwilling to simply take on the perspective of a singular character provides a rich and broad texture that many filmmakers stray away from, possibly due to the difficulty of undertaking such a method of storytelling, but Ozu is a master of such a stroke, amplifying such ideas and sincerity through his precise and detailed imagery, the camera constantly positioned low on the floor, at times taking on the perspective of a room’s furniture, backed up against the wall with a wide point of view, staring up into its human subjects, glorifying his domesticated characters that exposes them and mirrors reality that traditional cinema have long denied from such archetypes.
Tokyo Story explores the dissolution of children from their parents, seeking for opportunities and glory in modern Tokyo only to reach slightly above mediocrity, an outcome that is recycled in much of his films. Their parents from a rural town take on a rare trip to Tokyo, to visit their children and see the sights that they have long been missing. Unfortunately the lives of the children are hectic, appreciating their visit but unable to find a proper space within their time to give them the proper tour, to the point when the siblings have decided to rally up cash to send them to a spa that unfortunately backfired due to the youthful and night thriving life that the spa revelled in. The wife of the parent’s deceased son, Noriko Hirayama, has remained single all this time, and is the only one out of the two blood-related children living in Tokyo to give these elderly visitors the proper time of day, showing them the sense of gratitude that is simply lost in the cynical lives of their children, almost seeing them as an inconvenience.
Though through Ozu’s lens, the children cannot entirely to be blamed, as its elderly characters have noted and the chosen imagery of its shots have emphasised the consuming nature of Tokyo, a place that instils hopes and dreams to the point where its residents become self-absorbed and distant from their roots, it has become a labyrinth only navigated with confidence by the youth, a place that certainly intimidates the older generation, fearing of becoming lost in its intricacies; Noriko may not see herself as a saint as she notes to her father in law the occasional selfishness of her ways, but through our eyes, and Ozu’s, she is, as she shows effort in providing these elders the respect they rightfully deserved, and is aware of her own shortcomings even if her soul is currently losing the battle.
Ozu achieves a sense of sorrow for the conditions of its characters, especially towards its elders, without having to amplify the film’s drama, moments appear almost seemingly familiar from our own reality, yet we identify with it more so than a film that wears its emotions on its sleeves due to our reactions being self-generated rather than manipulated by an outside force, a testament to the master craftsman of a filmmaker and the lasting power of the cinematic form. Despite it all coming off as natural, the performances could still be easily appreciated, as it is difficult for actors to emote with a naturalistic flourish whilst remaining focused within their roles, achieving a variance from the roles they have portrayed from Ozu before, but constant in their excellence.
Tokyo Story has all the ingredients it needs for a perfect Ozu film, but it all becomes stretched to a length that I felt is unjustified and lacks the emotional enveloping experience that The Only Son has left on me, which so far tied with An Autumn Afternoon has only increased my affection over time and regarded as the strongest of his work. Nevertheless, a strong entry Tokyo Story was, filled with empathetic emotions, thoughtful ideas, and strong performances from Ozu’s reliable cast.