Tokyo Story - September 12
By Federal Films
A 1953 black and white Japanese film directed by Yasujiro Ozu, conveying the simple tale of an elderly couple’s trip to Tokyo to visit their children. This unique film is an unsentimental insight into the human condition, expressed through Ozu’s distinct and masterful direction. Every scene is meticulously composed to achieve what some critics have described as cinematic perfection.
Ozu’s unique style of cinematography subverts many of the established rulesvv of filmmaking and makes his films instantly recognisable. There is a very photographic feel to his filmmaking, all scenes are shot with a 50mm lens from a kneeling position with the camera remaining still. There are no fade-outs, dissolves or dolly shots, and Ozu ignores many of the conventions of mainstream cinematography.
For his aesthetic depiction of Japanese culture and tradition, Ozu has been called ‘the most Japanese of all directors’. This is particularly evident in his use of visual spaces functioning like the pillow words in Japanese poetry. These brief scenes, described as ‘stepping stones’ or ‘the emptiness that gives heightened meaning to form’ are often unpeopled and autonomous. They consist of simple subjects such as teapots, trains or washing on the line. The narrative stillness creates a reflective space for both the characters and the viewer.
The genius of Ozu is in the compassion and empathy he brings to the portrayal of human nature through the subtle power of film, where ‘the parts fit so perfectly that one is never conscious of the virtuosity with which it is done’. His filmmaking style has influenced many famous directors and provides inspiration for countless others.
The meditative detachment of Ozu’s films produces a profound and very different film experience from watching a western film in glorious technicolour. Tokyo Story tells a universal story as simply and evocatively as a haiku. Yet for all its apparent simplicity, it is a film that is hard to forget.
As one critic put it ‘Sooner or later, everyone who loves movies comes to Ozu’.