Tokyo Story

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Tokyo Story
Tokyo Story poster.jpg
Japanese theatrical release poster
Directed by Yasujirō Ozu
Produced by Takeshi Yamamoto
Written by Kōgo Noda
Yasujirō Ozu
Starring Chishū Ryū
Chieko Higashiyama
Setsuko Hara
Music by Kojun Saitō
Cinematography Yūharu Atsuta
Edited by Yoshiyasu Hamamura
Production
company
Release dates
  • November 3, 1953 (1953-11-03)
Running time
136 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Tokyo Story (東京物語 Tōkyō Monogatari?) is a 1953 Japanese drama film directed by Yasujirō Ozu. It tells the story of an aging couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children. The film contrasts the behavior of their children, who are too busy to pay them much attention, and their widowed daughter-in-law, who treats them with kindness. It is widely regarded as Ozu's masterpiece and is often cited as one of the greatest films ever made. In 2012, it was voted the best film of all time in a poll of film directors by Sight & Sound magazine.[1]

Plot[edit]

A retired couple, Shūkichi and Tomi Hirayama (played by Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama respectively) live in the town of Onomichi in southwest Japan with their daughter Kyōko (played by Kyōko Kagawa). They have five adult children, four living. The couple travel to Tokyo to visit their son, daughter, and widowed daughter-in-law.

Their eldest son, Kōichi (So Yamamura), is a pediatrician, and their eldest daughter, Shige (Haruko Sugimura), runs a hairdressing salon. Kōichi and Shige are both busy, and do not have much time for their parents. Only their widowed daughter-in-law, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), goes out of her way to entertain them. She takes Shūkichi and Tomi on a sightseeing tour of metropolitan Tokyo.

Kōichi and Shige pay for their parents' stay at a hot spring spa at Atami, but the parents return early because the nightlife at the hotel interrupts their sleep. When they return, Shige explains that she sent them to Atami because she wanted to use their bedroom for a meeting. Tomi goes to stay with Noriko, whose husband, her son, died eight years ago in the war. Tomi advises Noriko to remarry. Shūkichi, meanwhile, gets drunk with some old friends, then returns to Shige's salon.

The couple remark on how their children have changed, and they leave for home, planning to see their younger son Keizō when the train passes through Osaka. Though they originally had planned to see him without leaving the train, Tomi takes ill during the journey and they decide to disembark, staying until she feels better the next day. However, when they later reach Onomichi, Tomi becomes critically ill. Kōichi, Shige and Noriko rush to Onomichi to see Tomi, who dies shortly afterwards. Keizō arrives late as he is out-stationed.

After the funeral, Kōichi, Shige and Keizō leave immediately, with only Noriko not returning. After they leave, Kyōko is angry with them and complains to Noriko that they are selfish to their family. She believes Kōichi, Shige and Keizō doesn't care how hard it was for their father when he lost their mother and thinks strangers would've been more respectful towards her. Noriko responds that while she understands Kyoko's disappointment with her siblings, she also explains that everyone has their own life to lead and that the drift between parents and children is inevitable. She convinces Kyoko not to be too harsh on her siblings because one day she too will understand how hard it is for them to have to take time from both their families and their own lives.

After Kyōko leaves for school, Noriko informs her father-in-law that she must return to Tokyo that afternoon. Shūkichi tells her that she has treated them best despite not being related by blood. Noriko insists on her own selfishness; Shūkichi credits her protests to humility. He gives her a watch from the late Tomi as a memento. Noriko breaks down in tears and confesses her loneliness. Shūkichi encourages her to remarry again as soon as possible. At the end, the train with Noriko speeds from Onomichi back to Tokyo, leaving behind Kyōko and Shūkichi.

Hirayama family tree[edit]

  • Shūkichi (Grandfather) and Tomi (Grandmother)
    • Kōichi (eldest son)
      • Fumiko (Kōichi's wife)
      • Minoru (Kōichi's son)
      • Isamu (Kōichi's son)
    • Shige (eldest daughter)
      • Kurazō (Shige's husband)
    • Shōji (2nd son, deceased)
      • Noriko (Shōji's wife)
    • Keizō (youngest son)
    • Kyōko (youngest daughter)

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Ozu (far right) on set during shooting.

The script was developed by Yasujirō Ozu and his long-time collaborator Kōgo Noda over a period of 103 days in a country inn in Chigasaki. It was inspired by the American film Make Way for Tomorrow (1937).[2] The two, together with cinematographer Yūharu Atsuta, then scouted locations in Tokyo and Onomichi for another month before shooting started. Shooting and editing the film took place from July to October 1953. Ozu used the same film crew and actors he had worked with for many years.[3]

Release[edit]

Tokyo Story was released on November 3, 1953 in Japan. It was screened at the National Film Theatre in London in 1957.[4]

Reception[edit]

Tokyo Story is often admired for its emotional depth while avoiding melodrama. It was awarded the first Sutherland Trophy for the most original and creative film in 1958.[5] The film has appeared several times in the British Film Institute polls of "greatest films" of directors and critics published in Sight & Sound. On the critics' poll, it was third in 1992, fifth in 2002, and third again in 2012. On the directors' poll, it was 17th in 1992, tied at number 16 with Psycho and The Mirror in 2002, and in 2012 it topped the poll, receiving 48 votes out of the 358 directors polled.[1][6][7][8]

It holds a 100% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 38 critical reviews, with also the highest average critical score on the website at 9.7/10.[9] John Walker, former editor of the Halliwell's Film Guides, places Tokyo Story at the top of his published list of the best 1000 films ever made. Tokyo Story is also included in film critic Derek Malcolm's The Century of Films,[10][11] a list of films which he deems artistically or culturally important, and Time magazine lists it among its All-Time 100 Movies. Roger Ebert includes it in his series of great movies,[12] and Paul Schrader placed it in the "Gold" section of his Film Canon.[13]

Style[edit]

Like all of Ozu's sound films, Tokyo Story's pacing is slow.[14] Important events are often not shown on screen but revealed through dialogue. For example, the train journeys to and from Tokyo are not depicted.[15] A distinctive camera style is used, in which the camera height is low and almost never moves; film critic Roger Ebert notes that the camera moves once in the film, which is "more than usual" for an Ozu film.[12]

Influence[edit]

German director Doris Dörrie drew inspiration from Tokyo Story for her 2008 film Cherry Blossoms, in particular the family constellation and the death of the mother in a resort at the seaside.[16]

In 2013 Yōji Yamada remade the film as Tōkyō Kazoku.[17]

Home media[edit]

The film was restored and released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection (Region 1) and by Tartan Video in Region 2. In 2010, the BFI released a Region 2 dual-format edition (Blu-ray + DVD).[18] Included with this release is a standard definition presentation of Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family.

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b "The 2012 Sight & Sound Directors' Top Ten". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  2. ^ "Tokyo Story". TCM. Retrieved May 30, 2011. It was in fact Noda who had initially suggested the plot for Tokyo Story, which was loosely inspired by Leo McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow (1937). Ozu hadn't seen the film, but Noda recalled it from its initial release in Japan. 
  3. ^ Eleftheriotis, Dimitris; Gary Needham (May 2006). Asian cinemas: a reader and guide. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 17–26. ISBN 978-0-8248-3085-4. 
  4. ^ Desser, David, ed. (1997). Ozu's Tokyo story. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 145. ISBN 0-521-48435-9. 
  5. ^ "Sutherland Trophy". 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2016. The first recipient of the Trophy was Japanese film director and screenwriter Yasujiro Ozu for Tokyo Story 
  6. ^ "Top Ten Poll 1992 - Directors' and Critics' Poll". Sight & Sound. Published by British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved October 29, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll 2002 - The rest of the directors' list". Sight & Sound. Published by British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved October 29, 2010. 
  8. ^ "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time". Published by British Film Institute. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "Tokyo Story (Tôkyô monogatari)". rottentomatoes.com. 3 November 1953. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Malcolm, Derek (4 May 2000). "Yasujiro Ozu: Tokyo Story". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  11. ^ Malcolm, Derek (2000). A Century of Film. IB Tauris. pp. 85–87. 
  12. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (November 9, 2003). "Tokyo Story Movie Review & Film Summary (1953)". Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Jeffrey M. Anderson (14 November 2006). "Paul Schrader's Film Canon, Film Comment - September/October 2006". 
  14. ^ David Bordwell; Kristin Thompson (2003). Film History: An Introduction (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 396. 
  15. ^ David Desser (2005). "The Space of Ambivalence". In Jeffrey Geiger. Film Analysis. Norton. pp. 462–3. 
  16. ^ "Kirschblüten - Hanami, Filmdatenblatt berlinale 2008". 
  17. ^ "世界358監督が選んだベスト1映画は小津安二郎「東京物語」…没後50年、こだわった「家族」と「戦争」". Sankei News. 16 November 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2016. 
  18. ^ "Tokyo Story: Dual Format Edition". Retrieved 2 August 2012. 

Further reading

External links[edit]