In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
Elderly couple Shukishi and Tomi Hirayama live in the small coastal village of Onomichi, Japan with their youngest daughter, schoolteacher Kyoko Hirayama. Their other three surviving adult children, who they have not seen in quite some time, live either in Tokyo or Osaka. As such, Shukishi and Tomi make the unilateral decision to have an extended visit in Tokyo with their children, pediatrician Koichi Hirayama and beautician Shige Kaneko, and their respective families (which includes two grandchildren). In transit, they make an unexpected stop in Osaka and stay with their other son, Keiso Hirayama. All of their children treat the visit more as an obligation than a want, each trying to figure out what to do with their parents while they continue on with their own daily lives. At one point, they even decide to ship their parents off to an inexpensive resort at Atami Hot Springs rather than spend time with them. The only offspring who makes a concerted effort on this trip is Noriko ...Written by
American cinema expert Donald Richie took Satyajit Ray to see the film. Ray was overcome with emotion by the end. See more »
At timer mark 1:45:46, when the children are visiting their mother at home and leave the room to talk with the father in an adjoining room, just as they sit on the floor, you see the shadow of the boom-mic just drop into the scene and back out again, just over the sons head on the top right of the screen. This shadow is well into the frame against the edge of what appears to be a bookshelf and should not be considered a masking mistake of the projectionist. See more »
I can vividly remember the first time i saw this movie - it was during a festival of Japanese movies in an art house cinema here in Dublin. I must admit to never having heard of Ozu before, i went out of boredom and casual curiosity. I was embarrassed at the end to find myself in tears. I quickly wiped them away in that subtle way guys do when they don't want anyone to know, and got out to leave. What struck me was that even as the credits were finishing, I was one of the first to go. As i walked up the aisle I realized that most of the nearly full cinema was still sitting quietly, without the usual post movie chatter - and more than half of the audience had tears pouring down their faces. I have never, ever witnessed that in a cinema.
Since then, i've watched it on DVD, and had to think a lot about why such a simple movie is so powerful, and so many people rate it as one of the greatest ever. And why i find myself agreeing with that rating, i truly think it is in the top 10 ever made - certainly the top 5 of any I've seen. But its hard at first to know why. It doesn't have the greatest script of any movie, there are few things in it that are truly original. The acting is great, but not the greatest ever seen, and the technical qualities are just average. I've come to the conclusion that the reason for its greatness is that it comes closest to pure art in cinema. By pure art, i mean art that in its simplicity but technical genius still reveals deep truths about our lives. When i think about Tokyo Story I don't find myself comparing it to other movies, instead I think of a Rembrandt self portrait, a Vermeer painting, or my favourite short story, 'The Dead' by James Joyce. It is simple, unadorned, and deeply wise. I realise in writing this I'm rapidly approaching pseuds corner, but this is my genuine conclusion (writing as someone who is shamefully uneducated in most of the arts).
Of course there have been many great movies about families, about growing old, about the nature of life.... but I think somehow Ozu achieved a sort of perfection with Tokyo Story. Thats why its the only movie I would give a '10' to.
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