As part of Film Unit’s plan for world domin…I mean to get our name out, I (along with a couple of others) I am going to be reviewing films that we’ve shown recently at the cinema. This week we’re showing Suspiria (the old one!), Western, Bad Samaritan and First Reformed, so come on down to enjoy these fantastic stories first-hand.
Tokyo Story follows an old married couple from rural Japan who venture into Tokyo to visit their children, most of whom work in the city. Whilst the visit starts off courteous, it soon turns into a game of hot potato, as each child claims they are too busy to look after their ageing parents. After spending the night at a spa retreat, the couple are taken in by the widowed wife of their second son, who treats them with the respect and time that their actual relatives lack. Upon returning to their country home, the wife of the couple (Chieko Higashiyama) falls ill, forcing her offspring to return home.
There is a deep sadness at the heart of Tokyo Story as it explores loneliness, generational segregation and regret in a family dynamic. The children have very little time for their parents, which leaves them to feel isolated from the family- even if they are closer physically. This is exemplified by director Yasujirô Ozu’s use of melancholy and downbeat music when the couple are alone on-screen together. In contrast, when joined by other characters, mainly their children, there is hardly any music. This is used in combination with another feature of the film, the dialogue, or again lack thereof, to create tension between the two generations from very early on.
The pacing of the film is incredibly slow, which both helps and hinders it. Whilst helping to build tension, when coupled with a 2hr 16min runtime the film can drag in parts, as some scenes feel like they go on for longer than necessary. Another flaw of the film is the characters, who often act in an inhuman-like manner. For example, the impatience of the children, the eldest daughter in particular, is exaggerated to the point where they seem cold and emotionless. Whilst I believe this was probably done on purpose, it takes you out of the film at times. This does not take away from the acting however, which was fantastic throughout.
Overall, Tokyo Story lives up to its reputation as a classic of Japanese cinema. It shows us a painful and drawn-out story that, whilst not a Pixar-style tear-jerker, certainly compels strong feelings of empathy for its two leads and passes across its ideas about the relationships we have with our parents in a concise and powerful way.
Image Credit: Movie DB.