Quarter To Three Movie Club - October 2018 Film is Tokyo Story - Spoilers Allowed!!

Does most of a bottle of wine count as a snack?

Absolutely. I had a bacon and cheddar sub, toasted.

Sake would be more fitting.

I had some Japanese Whiskey. Suntory. Delicious! I bought it on a trip to Okinawa 4 years ago, and keep it stashed for special occasions.

Man, I could really go for some whiskey right about now.

I hear you. I may have some myself. I am going to watch another Ozu film. Probably An Autumn Afternoon.

Spolier embargo lifts in 12 hours!!!

I made it almost half an hour in but I think I’m done. It’s just really, really not the sort of movie I enjoy. I can understand the craft involved, and it’s interesting getting a glimpse of Japan at that time, but it’s so low key it’s practically soporific. Nothing of moment has happened, nothing of interest has been said. And the dialogue is being delivered in a way that feels stilted and unnatural to me, which is probably a directorial choice but it doesn’t work for me.

I felt similarly.

I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you can keep going, it changes. It’s really an amazing trick that I’m still wrapping my head around. I can’t guarantee that you’ll think it was worth it, but…, you know what, strike that, I’ll guarantee it.

I read Ebert’s Great Movies review and I’m aware that it’s not just going to be awkward family small talk the whole movie but it just doesn’t feel like something that is enough in my wheelhouse to reward another nearly 2 hours of viewing.

I actually had the same reaction you did…and then it turned the corner for me in exactly the way @Rock8man describes. Diametrically so. From boredom to…a zen slap.

That’s interesting, because I’d be hard pressed to tell anyone to stay through if they didn’t enjoy it from the very first minute. I don’t like the movie much, but Ozu has got a fascinating way of pulling me in and not letting me go.

I’d normally agree with you; because it is very rare a film would do that to me. In fact, if I wasn’t going to be writing about it, I’d have probably moved on after the first 20-30 minutes. I was lucky, frankly.

I felt this was as well. I am sorry but, as much as I enjoy some subtitled Japanese art films, I prefer the more, shall I say edgy films. While it may be an excellent art piece, it is not my excellent art piece. Again, sorry.

Spoilers Allowed, Spoilers Allowed!


Maybe I was in just the right mood for this, but I loved it. Quiet, calm, sad, and beautiful. I need a bit of time to process and come back with more detailed thoughts, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone else thought.

Tokyo Story

As someone watching this movie in 2018, it’s hard not to start watching a movie like this and not get out of your head. Is this an artistic movie of some kind? Why are we being shown so much detail? Is it setting the mood? Is it setting an atmosphere? Is it setting the scene for some conflict to come? Am I being shown Japanese culture circa 1950? Am I being shown this particular family because they are ordinary? Is this family extraordinary in some way that we’ll find out later.

Meanwhile on the screen, there’s the detail. She takes care of the sheets. She bows to her parents just so. We see her go to the next room and the camera follows her. She shuts the door behind her just so. She steps over and grabs her sash. She grabs her bag. She grabs an umbrella. (Is it raining? No? I wonder if weather forecasting wasn’t good enough back then so you always took your umbrella with you?) She steps over the threshold of the room and steps into her shoes. She turns around and shuts the sliding Japanese style door. She opens the front door of a similar style. She shuts the door. We follow her to another shot outside the house. She passes a couple of kids playing in the street. She disappears from view. And we’re back with the parents.

What the hell did I just watch? Why did I need to be shown all that? Is it the slow pace of life, the little details that are a part of these people’s lives? They’re talking about going to Tokyo to visit their other children. At this pace, they might get there by the end of this movie, right? But no, wait a minute. Now they’re in Tokyo, staying with their son who is a doctor. His wife and two kids are behaving like you would expect a dutiful wife and kids to behave. The elder kid is resentful that his room is being used, the young one is shy.

Am I going crazy here? What is going to happen? What is with all these details and the slow pace again? Is this showing Japanese culture, is that it?

By the time they’re touring Tokyo, I am so inside my own head, I’m finally just ready to give up. This director is not giving me any clues. I have no idea where this is headed. I have no clue what I’m watching. Is this going to be a travel guide? Are we really going to tour 1950s Tokyo? But it looks so plain. Is that because I’m viewing it through 2018 eyes? Would I be impressed with Tokyo if this was the 50s? I don’t think I would. It’s just boring old modernized post-World War 2 Western looking square buildings for the most part.

I think this was the point where I reached an almost zen like state every time I put this movie on again. When my son wasn’t interrupting my viewing, I would put it on, and I would watch these two parents go over the trivialities of visiting Tokyo to see their children, and I started getting out of my head. What was going to happen was going to happen. I wouldn’t be able to predict it.

The kids are busy with their own lives, and that’s understandable. There’s a daughter who is playful and yet mean and yet understandably selfish about her own life. I oscillated between thinking ill of her, but then seeing myself in her and realizing that her actions were pretty understandable. When she brings together her siblings and comes up with the idea of sending the parents to a nearby resort town, I’m almost relieved. See? She’s thoughtful, she’s looking out for them whilst getting them out of their hair (she runs a salon).

They’re at a perfectly nice resort. They enjoy the sun and sea and the salt air. And they decided to get up early the next morning to watch the sunrise together. And then, just when I’d completely stopped looking for it, the movie changes. It happens so organically, I never saw it coming.

You see, this is a resort for young people. The couple can’t sleep because there’s people playing cards and generally having a good time. There’s a BAND playing NEXT TO THEIR ROOM for god’s sake. It’s hot and uncomfortable as they lie in bed using hand fans to keep cool. There’s no way they are getting any sleep in this environment.

Everything that follows, their decision to go back to Tokyo and then go home, their daughter not expecting them and not being able to take them, it feels like a natural consequence of their decision to return. The sudden dilemma of where to spend the night is just so urgent, and it’s completely natural and not contrived and just bears out because of the circumstances. I was suddenly so enraptured, so worried for these old folks. I don’t know how or when it happened. Why was I so worried about their situation? Where would they sleep for the night? As the mother goes to sleep with her daughter-in-law (wife to their son who likely died in the war), she has a heart to heart with her and is treated very kindly. The husband doesn’t fare so well. The childhood friend he visits is renting out their extra room.

As tense as that night is, when we get through it, and they are finally at the train station heading home, it’s almost a relief. The mother’s subsequent sickness really affected me deeply. When they talk about how they’ve raised their children and if they did a good job, I really feel like the movie has given me so much of the information to judge their children along with them. In the end when the children gather, the conversation between the daughter-in-law and the youngest daughter is one of the more brutally honest ones I’ve seen, and it’s exactly how I was dueling in my head about judging these children. They are busy with their own lives. And yet, they are selfish, and they should strive not to be.

I’m still amazed at what this movie is able to accomplish. Weren’t we looking at little overloaded details that just slowed down the movie and didn’t really tell us anything? Did we really need to see her pack her back, to grab that umbrella? Did we need to follow the girl outside as she headed into the street? And yet, there I was, when the crisis came, I was deeply affected somehow. The magic of the filmmaker managed to somehow draw me in, and really get inside this family’s relationships. It’s a simple enough relationship that the slow, languished pace helped me get acclimated to the life and speed of these parents in their late years, and to really empathize with them when their troubles started and their regular slow life got interrupted.

Honestly, after I finished watching this movie, I went to my parent’s place, and I sat down and talked to them, and asked if they needed help with anything and did a couple of chores for them. It’s easy to get wrapped into your own problems and in your own head, and you sometimes forget that it’s your duty to be good children to your parents, and just a few minutes of your time can mean so much to them.

This was an absolutely beautiful movie, and even though the pace and the long length, and the subtitles make it hard to recommend to a modern audience, I would still say that if you can just keep coming back despite any interruptions while watching this movie, you’ll be highly rewarded. It’s really rare when a moment of conflict comes in a story and it doesn’t feel at least a little contrived. But here it’s so natural and so consistent with the real life aesthetic of the movie that I can’t help but admire what is pulled off by the story, and how it left me feeling at the end. Bravo.

A special thanks to @charmtrap for nominating such a great movie.

So I have lots of thoughts on the movie, including a particular focus on the cinematography. Because it’s interesting how static everything is.

I will say that I can see why it gets the praise it does. Which is equal parts the quality of the movie itself, as it is the type of movie it is being one that tends to be particularly favored among film critics.

The movie does go places, but for about the first 2/3 of the film, it is understandably hard to diss out that will be the case. Basically the first two hours are building to earn the last ten minutes. If anything the last ten minutes stand out for how incongruous they are with the very restrained and understated direction of the first two hours.

And to get at what @Rock8man was going for, this is very much a cultural thing. Japanese culture, like many Asian cultures, expresses itself very differently than the US. Interestingly enough my experiences working with Indians, and for an Indian company, definitely emphasize things for me. In fact one of the things that struck me is how ‘western’ the oldest daughter is. Which was definitely picked up on, she was cast in the least sympathetic light, and part of that is due to her more direct and blunt expression of her own desires.

There is a lot of subtle things happening that would be easy to miss, in terms of the communications. The entire family dynamic I think only works in context of a specific place and time.

Ozu has a style, but for my part, I definitely prefer how Kurosawa operates better. The camera is allowed to move Ozu!