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

I didn’t notice it, but @Navaronegun made me realize yesterday I was coming to the movie differently than the first-time watchers (doh!), having already seen it multiple times a long time ago, but thus being familiarized with the plot, and thus the reveals were not reveals at all to me.

I apologize if this isn’t very constructed or intelligible (as usual for me, cough). But I had kept only four notes, and watched the movie two weeks ago, so I’m going ad-lib!

That was a great read, @Rock8man, and I am very glad you shared (at the last minute, like in the movie!) the reveal of what the movie meant for you in the physical world.
But as my namesake implies, I shall be the “half-empty” to your “half-full”!

Ozu is a very dark director. And this is probably his darkest movie. Usually, his darkness is packed with comedy (or even fart jokes), as it is very polite to smile at the face of despair, but I thought that Tokyo Story was dark through and through.

It showed selfish people, and how everybody is, no exception. Sure, the partly westernized in their attitude Japanese are openly selfish, or should I say self-involved, but so are Noriko and the father — maybe to an even greater extent.

The father takes advantage of being half-drunk, the only occasion you are socially allowed to express yourself without too much a restraint in Japan, to infer how inappropriate he thought the way he was hosted for his trip was. Him having had a terrible night before at a beach resort hotel, one may think it is related to that, but he states how disappointed he is of the social situation of his son, even that he feels this son is a failure, as is supposedly apparent in the popular neighbourhood his house is located. He strikes me as the ultimate selfish character, one who is not only self-involved, but thinks others should dedicate themselves to his splendour — and oops, I’m home, let me puke on your tatami.

Noriko, the central attraction, shows a proper, expected face most of the movie. Is she doing it out of respect, or because of social obligations toward one’s elders? Or could it be guilt, after what is revealed with her talk with the mother, or even that she sees sparks of her beloved husband in his progenitors? We could be left wondering, but she takes on herself to spill all out the fact she only really wants to think of herself, yet isn’t allowed because of her social statute, and the slight side issue that she has been utterly ravaged and destroyed by the war. What does she really think? I was left being sad for her, somewhat terrified of her, a bit outraged by her. How amazing that the person that is this plain, obedient nursing woman most of the movie is its biggest mystery, even after watching it so many times.

The only exception maybe the mother, who isn’t overtly selfish, but the comment might be that she was the only one not to take a spot to express herself, and that the patriarchal society won’t offer her such an occasion.

The usage of fans was an interesting way to display selfishness: quickly flapping moves destined at one’s face for more, then Noriko slowly moving the air toward her in-laws at dinner, while not eating herself.

Probably some Western commentator has reflected about how all those characters may be allegories for the Japanese society of the time (as with about any Ozu movies, I guess), but I dislike that sort of weighted attitude, especially since it is my opinion that Japanese society hasn’t changed that much and is still caught in a time capsule. But I also don’t think that was the intent of the director at all, who has always seemed focused on depicting characters.
On that front, sadly, I think he is let down because the acting is very questionable. Japanese acting is almost always supposed to feel fake, because it is partly what is expected of it, but I think that it is also because of the will to convey emotions the Japanese people are used to hide. Most actors just cannot. I prefer Ozu’s silent movies for that reason as, at least, exaggerated acting is expected back then. But in Tokyo Story, the terrible acting of a lot of the parts was really troubling me. Some actors even felt like they didn’t really understand their characters (the father or the youngest son, for instance).
Ozu probably invented the “vegetable posing” of actresses — the awkward filming of a woman who stares at a camera, swaying and smiling in a not particularly smart way — which is still so popular nowadays in Japan. I dislike it, but to his credit, there is nothing voyeur-ish in the way he does it — and the males are sometimes subjected to it as well. While Setsuko Hara isn’t a really good actress, in my opinion, in her routine, she obviously gets what Ozu wants, and the way she delivers some horrible lines (the most obvious one being “Human exchanges/Life/Times/Society is horror,” delivered casually and with a smile to the youngest daughter) makes me more sympathetic of her.

Having spent a lot of my life in Japan now, this was very interesting as a time piece as well. Some of the old, “literary”, Japan’s artefacts (before the 1946 massacre simplification of the language) can still be seen (the Hiroshima writings in the stations for instance). It can also be felt in some of the dialogues, who are little pieces of beauty (“I’ve decided not to grow old.”, which is probably a lame sounding translation).
The Noriko character had perhaps a shocking value when I watched it before (I remember wondering how someone could be so broken). I am in a very dark place of my life, and I couldn’t help but agree with her pessimistic way of seeing life now.

Noriko has always been one of my favourite Japanese names, from as long as I can remember. Uh, that’s funny now that I think about it.

Baring midsummer and midwinter, you always should have an umbrella with you in Japan.

It really didn’t change much, if at all, in my experience.

This is what struck me the most when I watched it, especially in contrast to Kurosawa, which is my main reference point for 50s Japanese cinematography. It’s not all bad though, as it really emphasises his remarkable, almost Mondrian-esque shot composition.

I didn’t get very far, as I expressed earlier, but there’s an early conversation where the mother is talking with one of the daughters (I think - I could tell the characters apart but wasn’t totally clear on their relationships) about how it really wasn’t a long trip to get to Tokyo at all that seemed to be very clearly implying that said daughter was being remiss by not visiting them. (Shortly followed by some really gross fat-shaming of the mom by the eldest daughter.)

As Craig mentions, Japanese (and other Asian) movies tend to be very high-context (i.e. implication through context rather than outright stating things) where American movies are very low-context. I find this fascinating and rewarding of my attention in more active genres - thrillers, horror, action, etc. But it makes it really hard for me to take movies like Tokyo Story.

I agree with how dark this story was. I was interrupted several times during this movie and stopped it for that reason, since any small distraction meant I couldn’t look at subtitles anymore, so my threshold for what constituted an “interruption” was much lower. But during the final sequence I was not interrupted. I was watching, and I couldn’t watch anymore. I wasn’t crying, but when the kids gathered and the last son showed up too late when the mother was already dead, I just couldn’t take anymore at that moment, so I stopped the movie. I had to step away for a day or two and think about it and clear my head.

What’s insidious about the despair is that it’s just putting a mirror out there, forcing you to look at the way things are. I would have been fine with most of that being left unsaid. But when I finally did come back to the movie, I was really glad to see Noriko saying these things to the daughter out loud. And then saying them out loud to the father at the end.

I disagree about the father being the ultimate selfish character. Is it wrong to expect some attention and care from your children in your older years? I suppose that could be looked upon as selfishness. For the most part I liked his attitude of just taking everything in stride. He doesn’t necessarily like the circumstances of their visit, or the situation of his children, but it is what it is, and you have to deal with it, and everyone does the best they can.

Both the mother and father try to impress upon Noriko that she should move on, and not worry about their son who is likely dead. Even though Noriko feels guilt for not thinking about him more, and staying loyal to him in her thoughts, they both want her to move on, get married to someone else and be happy. She is in a bad situation, but I actually agree with the mother in that it’s a situation she is putting herself in with her own guilt. She can get out of the mental prison she has put herself in if she allows herself to do so. Honestly, Noriko is the least depressing part of the story for me. She’s the one note in the movie’s opera that’s not despair. Not only in how she treats the parents, but in that she is a nice person through and through, and there is always the possibility of her situation getting better if she allows it to.

@Left_Empty that’s some good stuff. There are some things I was leery of pointing out, the father characters acting for one, because it can be difficult to separate what is poor acting from cultural differences in expression. But, yeah, the father has basically one facial expression, that often doesn’t fit the moment. This permanent half smile. ‘Mother is going to die by dawn’ ‘oh I see’ with this half smile look.

Also I love the term vegetable pose you used. It is definitely most notable in how Noriko gets it.

I would say that the father and mother do have some selfishness that is less overt, as you mention they complain about their children not meeting expectations, but they also come back to that later and acknowledge they are not being fair. So they recognize their own selfishness.

On the expression front mentioned, i have to compare it to my other contemporary point of reference, namely Kurosawa films. Toshiro Mifune is so expressive, almost over the top at times, but capable of dialing it back. See Rashomon for example. And I know it might be odd to call his performance ‘dialed back’ there, but while there is a lot of very expressive movements, there is also a subtlety at times as well. But other actors in his films convey emotion too. I don’t really get that here, facial expressions are fairly binary.

Everything is framed like a portrait. Clearly Ozu thought about exactly how his shots would be framed. I can respect that even if I find it stylistically not as interesting. Going back to Roshomon I saw a breakdown of how Kurosawa used the sky in that film. The writer asserted, and provided evidence for, the claim that in that film Kurosawa used camera angles to show the sky when a character was telling the truth, and omitted the sky when they were telling something that was not. And how the woods themselves obscuring the sky, only occasionally letting it through, worked metaphorically for how the truth was obscured of what happened there. That is the kind of craft I find interesting. And the kind of thing I think Ozu is lacking for. By using the limited framing types he does, it restricts the expressiveness of the film.

It is a good movie, and I understand why it is so critically lauded. The subject matter definitely fits with what we traditionally call ‘Oscar bait’ stylistically, so critics tend to overvalue this type of film. So looping it back to the early claim about it being ‘the best Japanese film of all time’ and my initial scepticism? Well ultimately I land back at my original position. It is a good movie, but it isn’t even the best Japanese film of its decade in my book. It’s just too artificially limiting. As a character focused work, I find Rashomon surpasses it, for most of the reasons I brought above. They are certainly very different works though.

I’ll weigh in on Tokyo Story later today, but this perception of Kurosawa and Mifune in Japanese cinema, is a bit thin, and only seen through the lens of Jidaigeki and Chambara. Both Kurosawa’s direction and Mifune’s performances in High and Low, Stray Dog and The Bad Sleep Well just to name a few, are quite different, and far more subdued, than in say, Rashomon or The Seven Samurai, for example, and not unlike the characters in Ozu’s film.

Kurosawa used the past as a setting, specifically because it was a romantic era that allowed for more expressive performances emotionally. Culturally, they made sense in that context.

I wanted to just give a broader frame of reference regarding Kurosawa and Mifune who are most people’s point of entry and comparison regarding Japanese Cinema in terms of direction and performance.

I haven’t seen most of his earlier works, outside of the big ones. Too many movies and too little time. But I did watch parts of them, and it just drives home that Mifune is a terrific actor! Watching some scenes from High and Low in particular struck me with that.

Certainly, and I’d be lying to say that it was otherwise for me. It’s Kurosawa and Hayo Miyazaki that are my entry points. And, really, for good reason too. If someone completely unfamiliar with Japanese cinema were to ask, I’d almost certainly start there. Even though I’ve seen a broader spectrum over the last decade plus, but with lots of unexplored ground still, they are definitely my favorites of their forms.

And I’m sorry for breaking into such a digression, but the reality is that Ozu’s style is so different that what works and doesn’t work for me is invariably linked to the cinematography. It’s no coincidence that my favorite scene in the film is the post mourning dinner with the family. It’s the moment in the film where all pretense is dropped, and they reveal who they really are, but before the monologues that feel like the director spelling out the implicit message of the previous two hours.

There we see the one daughter at her selfish best, and we see some reaction to it, an acknowledgement of it. The youngest realize what he’s been as a son. The oldest seeing the limitations of what he can do. Each of them confronts their flaws in some way, and their responses are interesting. The oldest son feels like he wants to be a better son, but the oldest daughter pushes him to leave because she wants to leave. So, rather than push back against her and point out her flaw, he gives in and enables her. That is his flaw. The youngest son says he wants to be better, but he ultimately wants to just do his own thing, and go see the baseball game. ‘I’ll do better later’ basically. The youngest daughter gets resentful, and you see hints of that in this scene (before she unloads with Noriko). It’s the payoff, and the best scene in the film I think.

I will say that the oldest son seems to be the best actor of the lot. Because if he had one expression, like the actor who plays the father did, I feel it may have diminished this scene. Sorry, I just didn’t like Chishu Ryu’s performance.

To go back to your talk about the camera work, I am very basic person when it comes to visuals, and I confess to having next to no cinematographic culture, so forgive the incoming poor wording.
When I read comics, I already have a hard time paying attention to the image and concentrate on the text. When I hear somebody talk in a movie, I have often difficulty paying attention to the director’s intent, if there is any, as much as to not notice it. Which is precisely what may have happened to me in Rashomon — I need to watch this one again!
This is why I like, in Ozu, the static (painting?) approach: I can examine in details the little gestures the humans are doing. It’s something I am fascinated with in real life as well (which is fine when I watch over an artisan’s shoulders, but I get criticized for what seems like fixating people while not listening to them, too often, at dinners). Quite a few other Japanese directors share this static approach, although they don’t often capture so mundane scenes, which is what fascinates me probably the most in Ozu. Cinema at its magic lantern root, I guess.
That being said, I enjoyed his pessimism more in I was born, but… (what a terrible title!) than in the present movie.

This is going to be long, personal and given I’m helping myself to a glass of wine, probably rambling too, towards the end…

An unusual watching

I watched this movie this afternoon, in a hospital room, as I gave company to my father, who is on his fifteenth day into a deep coma. The rythm of the film editing resembled the rate at which the drops of the brain fluid drainage fell. Prognosis is dire, yet still uncertain. He is relatively young (66) and this has been very unexpected.

It obviously made for a very strange experience. It was not that the film stirred anything I was holding inside, or that it gave any insight in the proccess I’m going through. I found it, for lack of a better expression, self-evident. I could not help but nod along as I was watching it (it was clear to me one of the parents was going to die from the beginning).

This, obviously, is going to influence how I’m approaching the film this particular time.

On style, artyness and aesthetics

Some other time I would put on my formalist hat and engage in what’s going on with framing here (Bordwell’s essays are a good intro, although I prefer Mark Cousin’s analysis of Ozu as a true classicist). But today I find discussions of Ozu’s specific stylings, well, uninteresting.

It is, in my opinion, a true pity that people didn’t get to finish the film due to it’s particular approach. Beyond the specifity of Ozu’s filmmaking, it does belong to a broader style of narrative films that is quite common in World Cinema (an attempt to use the stylization to remove artifice, long shots with little editing, allowing empty time to pass, avoidance of romantic or expressionistic stylization and symbolism…) that I fear might be an acquired taste. In the same way I don’t think anybody can truly enjoy the first (pre-1930) silent film they watch, I think being accustomed (or not) to this slower pace, austere narrative style might be an issue at play.

For me the movie was engaging from the get go. I did not feel it was slow, or that there was little plot development. I was interested in watching the events playing out in from of me and to decipher the interpersonal relationships and subset of each scene. It felt way easier to watch than most contemporary (1940s) Hollywood films which I frequently find unwatchable due to the extremely stylized aesthetic (there are many exceptions, but it’s one of my less favorite periods). It felt (and I’m aware how crazy this is when talking about a movie with this framing) natural.

It seemed to take away most of the (perceived) artifice (editing, pans…) so to allow me to experience the movie in a very non-obtrusive way. This is a very personal viewpoint, of course, but the austerity allowed for truth to come out. Not that finding truth needs to be the end all of every film, or that it can’t be done without stylization (In the Mood for Love, which was also nominated this round, finds it, imho, through quasi-impressionistic mannierisms), but I have to acknowledge this particular style of narrative is perhaps my favorite, all things considered.

Now, I agree the acting was uneven. Thankfully I can put myself in a “ignore bad acting” mood everytime I watch anything pre-1960 (or there were very few movies I would enjoy) and also my knowledge of Japanese is minimal enough to help.

On themes and darkness

I disagree this is a dark movie, or it didn’t feel that way to me. Now, and obviously, the personal circumstances of the viewing weight heavily here, but I found it positive, calming, and somewhat luminous. It’s life, in it’s imperfection, but also in it’s goodness. I did not find any character selfish beyond the natural, and certainly everybody ended up feeling like a good son or father, although certainly each tied to his circumstances. Everybody acts like people I know. A little selfish, a little self-centered, but loving enough. When the mother at the station says she doesn’t think they’ll see again the sister seems genuinely shocked. They are not rejecting their parents, they are managing them as they go on with their lives, perhaps a little bit naively unaware time is running out.

I loved the scene when the son who is a Doctor informs the family of what’s about to happen. Both my parents are doctors. I’ve had similar conversations recently, more than I would have liked. It felt very real, the matter-of-fact way he addresses them. The emotion subdued with the knowledge of the likely outcome, the grieving already in course as everybody else’s starts. Anyway, in my experience that’s how doctors talk in those circumstances, and I was very impressed at the handling of the scene.

I did feel Noriko shifts at the end of the movie, and that her selflessness does ring somewhat hollow, but also true and understandable. She is the darkest character, not in intention, but because there’s no life ahead for her. Her lack of selfishness, her lack of acknowledgement that life goes on, gives her a dark future indeed, for she is the only one who, as the movie ends, has not moved on and perhaps won’t. In the conversation with the younger sister she seems aware of this, but unable to really change it. I think when she says “perhaps even I will become like that” she is being hopeful rather than cynical.

But overall, I think I’d like to go back to the drunken conversation in the bar. “You are fortunate, for you have good sons” says the friend to the father, and ultimately I think I agree. It’s a sad movie, a movie about a great unexpected loss, and the lost opportunities that go with that, but most of the characters seem to be living good, happy enough lives for their circumstances. Nobody (but perhaps Noriko) gives up on life, nobody is damaged beyond repair. Life goes on, and, while sad, it’s perhaps ok.

I may be reading too much into this, but marrying again in Japan, especially when you are going into your 30s, is really hard nowadays, and must have been even harder then. I thought they were saying what they thought was expected for them to say, but didn’t really care (this may be a strong word for what I mean to say) either way.
But again, we all put our own bagages into such sort of movie!

Oh that’s totally right, but it felt so organic I didn’t notice it.

I think this is very much a cultural difference: making fun of someone that way may look sadistic to us, but is considered a refreshingly childish play there — which doesn’t mean there is no trauma to speak of, that is up to the individuals: only that holding grudges over it would be considered inappropriate.

Tokyo Story

Qt3 Movie Club OCT 2018

Existentially Undone by Normalcy


Tokyo Story slowly undermined my sense of security in what I expected from it until it tore my spirit/heart/soul/self into several pieces, leaving me with an aching ennui afterwards that I still can’t quite describe. Because I thought it was going to be a story about an old couple from the provinces who come to the big city to visit children who are too busy for them. And it was about that on a surface level. But what it was really about was the omnipresence of death, and how different people have different levels of awareness of this existential fact, this mortality.

And that it is harder to maintain a sensitivity to this essential human fact, this mortality, when we have moved from the patterns of a family-based life and existence to one of technological modernity in what seems a very long time, but is merely the wink of an eye, socially speaking.

And when we have built this cutting-edge, technological society, that is cold, fast paced and unforgiving in a very brief period, eight years in the case of the film. Because only eight years prior, this Tokyo, this title city of the film, was in ashes and burned to the ground. We are all living in this new Tokyo, built on a graveyard, and we are lucky if we have any sons left, so losing one son, well we should be grateful we only lost one son, right? Right?

Part One: Outside

This is the shot that started to break me down. That started the undermining. See, before this point, Ozu uses his static, three feet off the ground, 50mm static shots, but confines himself mainly to interiors. There are exterior shots, but Ozu uses them as transitions; always giving you an exterior of a neighborhood or an area near where the next interior action is going to take place. As well, the family’s story seems pretty mundane. Mom and dad talk about visiting Tokyo, the Son’s family gets ready, a Grandson is selfish. Minor, normal family issues. Here is how Ozu normally was using the outdoors. As a transition.

Anyway after Grandma decides to take a walk with the younger Grandson after the days’ plans are disrupted by busy life, we see this shot.

And we see action captured outside for the first time. We see the oldest and youngest generation of together in a now outdoor open space that we have only seen used in transitions before. And this is affecting. And subconsciously unsettling. Grandma openly asks the young boy, with anxious emotion, for the first time in the film, I might add, if she will ever see what becomes of him. Will he be a doctor like his father? It’s surprising, and anxious. This is where Ozu started to undermine my expectations.

Outside again is where we get the first hints later that all is not well with Grandma.

Right after this scene she appears weak while arising. But they, and we, think nothing of it.

I’ll follow up soon (within the next day) with Part Two. I have no idea how many segments my comments will have.

P.S. Thanks to @Rock8man, @Left_Empty, @CraigM, @malkav11, @Ginger_Yellow and especially @Juan_Raigada for their comments today. They made me rethink my strange swirl of reactions to this film yet again, while embarking on writing about this experience today.

This is a beautiful scene and another moment of truthfulness I found in the movie. Some months ago my mother-in-law was talking with my wife about my then five months old son. My wife was fantasizing about when he would go to University, and my mother-in-law plainly said she most likely won’t be around for that. Now, she’s a lively, life-loving woman that has gone through some hardships and come back with a smile. This was no self pity, just a fact of life expressed in a somewhat casual way. I thought of her when watching this scene.

This, I think, might be the crux of the difficulty of watching this movie now and here. It’s a temporal distance more than a cultural one. I still maintain there’s nothing inherent Japanese about this story (the framing and the specifics are a different matter). Yes, there are social constraints the characters move around, and they are very specific characters that inhabit a very specific setting, but the core of the movie is universal, not really culturally specific. You could set a movie with this plot in many different societies and the changes to the characters would be there, but the essence on the story would, I believe, remain intact.

As to the temporal detachment: I see two vectors, one societal, which is certainly there but perhaps is not as pronounced, and one cultural.

We certainly live death differently than a society that went through a World War (and a civilian bombing campaign that included two atomic bombings). To say that the reality of personal loss was present in 1950s Japan is an understatement. Not only we have peace in most of the developed world now, we also live way longer. The mother is said to be “rich in years” at 68. Female life expectancy in Japan now is 87 years. While I agree we do hide from death somewhat more nowadays (and that technological modernity might play a part here), I think it’s mostly we experience it somewhat less frequently (not really, everybody goes through it by definition) and, most importantly, much later in life. I can not imagine experiencing this movie as a 20-something (as I was in the 20s, there are people who will have the appropriate baggage at that age). I would lack many of the points of reference needed to get the slightest grip on it. The theme is somewhat universal, but only for people in their 50s and 60s (and even some people in their 60s might be lucky enough not to have experienced deep personal loss). It is not necessarily universal for younger generations (depends on personal circumstances).

I think the cultural angle might be more prominent. I believe there has been a banalization of culture (probably starting with widespread cable (M)TV) that encourages instant gratification and glossing over the deeper, more unpleasant parts of the human experience (or at least those that are harder to talk about meaningfully in a short amount of time). Most movies take death too lightly (killing scores of bad guys is a-OK) or too tremendously (death as the ultimate drama and the stop-all, which while certainly true in some ways is also deeply untrue in others). We do get thoughtful works here and there, but they are considered “arthouse” instead of mainstream. I posit Tokyo Story is not meant to be an art film. It’s meant to be an accessible melodrama (in the most positive reading of the genre), somewhat serious, but with a wide enough audience. That audience is just not really there anymore, there are just too many ways to be entertained that choosing works that require meditation has become more of an exception.

I watched Tokyo Story with my girlfriend in one sitting and while we’re glad we watched it given the film’s reputation, we didn’t enjoy it as much as critics it seems!

Initially I found some of the dialogue or performances stiff and unnatural but sort of settled into that just being the era, or manner of some of the characters. It’s a gentle and earnest picture of the every day, of the cycle (and indeed, burden) of families growing old and drifting apart, our working lives shuffling our priorities, and, to a certain extent, loneliness. I got the impression from comments up-thread that the old man would do most of the reflecting but I found the mother ruminated on some of these things the most. The scene where the mother is talking to Isamu and wondering where she’ll be when he’s a doctor I thought was quietly sad given how suddenly she passes.

And death, as I’ve always said, brings people together like nothing else. The scene where all the brothers and sisters are sat around the table with the widower father is unique in that I don’t recall so many of them being together in Tokyo when the mother was alive.

There was an odd line from Noriko when she and the mother were about to sleep ‘I won’t get that old, so don’t worry’ which… didn’t sit right with me. Later on, when Kyoko speaks of her siblings’ selfishness, and Noriko talks to the father before leaving Onomichi, it becomes apparent that she’s been unhappy and lonely for a long time (‘Yes, [life is] nothing but disappointment.’ Interestingly, a lot of sites quoted her as saying ‘Yes, it is’ but the script and subtitles say otherwise). I found this very surprising given how generous she had been but it made that line earlier seem a lot darker too.

I really appreciated the stillness and framing of most shots. It’s not a fast moving film so I think that suits its pace perfectly. The camera facing each character as they spoke however, was unusual.

I don’t agree with you here Rock8man but I understand what you mean and the spirit in which you’re saying it!

I think this is where I come a little unstuck with Tokyo Story. My dad’s a stubborn drunk who’s horrible to my mum so I’ve got zero time for him. My mum is lovely and puts up with it somehow and she deserves better, particularly after surviving cancer and chemo, so I try to do as much with her as possible. On my girlfriend’s side her mum is a nasty piece of work and her dad’s also lovely. They’re going through a divorce.

So when I watched Tokyo Story I saw an old happy husband and wife going to see their children with families and successful businesses of their own. Relations seemed good, even if work drove wedges between them (isn’t work great?). Was it work or selfishness though? Or both? Couldn’t they make time for their parents’ visit? I was annoyed that they didn’t make more of an effort given the journey.

The most heartbreaking part of the whole film was the loss of their son and the state of Noriko. War tore apart their future together, and yet she is the most upbeat and giving. The mother passed away at a ripe old age and she managed to see her family (and Tokyo!) before dying, and the father was even left with chatty neighbours (even if they pointed out that he’ll be lonely, while smiling) and Kyoko. Over here you might say the mother had had a good innings.

I was so disappointed to hear the father when drunk saying how dissatisfied he was in his son being a small neighbourhood doctor. Tough crowd. I don’t know. I don’t like to impose my life experience on to art because I see art as a way of seeing the world through different perspectives but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Tokyo Story’s quiet drama was perhaps mundane and even tedious at times. Noriko aside, most of these folk had it good. I still related with the picture in various ways, don’t get me wrong (Kyoko’s outburst was welcomed), but I couldn’t feel some of the emotions that perhaps the film expected of me, or what others apparently experienced.

Interestingly, I was annoyed with Shige pulling her father up on getting drunk but then I considered how I’d feel if my dad stopped drinking and then some years later had a blow out. I’d probably be wary too.

I don’t know, I found her and the other females more expressive than the males (sake-induced venting notwithstanding!).

That’s a very nice way of putting it.

She’s certainly the most buoyant of all the characters but I think that contrasts starkly with her inner feelings and loss.

Yeah, that expression didn’t land very often for me!

I need to watch Rashomon again, I remember enjoying it many years ago. I need to watch more of Kurosawa’s work in fact.

Yeah, I certainly agree with this. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu was one of the first films to make me appreciate this kind of approach and it’s served me well on my travels with World Cinema!

Thanks, I thought I was the only one feeling like this!

And thanks everyone else for the thought-provoking posts.

Yes, that’s the one I was referring to. It’s something I considered years ago that some grandparents won’t see what becomes of their grandchildren and I think this scene captures that perfectly without overtly spelling it out.

At 35, this could very well be a limiting factor for me too.

I agree, I found the style, initially unusual, but that really grew on me. His stationary style, composed, always facing the speaker. The transitions, always in the area or a neighborhood,. What @Ginger_Yellow referred to as Mondrian-esque, really worked for me after a while (and has me exploring a later film, to see how he uses color within his style). I see a LOT of Ozu influences in Wes Anderson’s work, having seen this (and now An Autumn Afternoon).

It was only in passing, but when the father was drinking with his friends, we find that he has more sons than the others, post-war. One friend has no sons (its implied he lost 3, I believe).

When you think that Tokyo was fire-bombed into ashes as well 8 years before the events take place, some of the stoicism regarding death and loss also makes a lot more sense.

I’ll write more about Noriko in my Part 2 post. That is when my heart started to crack.

Just want to say all those opinions have been a tremenduous read. (and probably a testament about how objectively good the movie may be, despite a lot of us not seemingly “enjoying” it!)(at least good for the talk, I mean)(I’ll stop editing here)

Yes, my ultimate takeaway is I’m glad it got picked, and do not regret watching it. Even if I thought it was an ok film, and not exactly my particular cup of sake.

And whatever someone’s opinion on the film is, there is no denying the directors fingerprints. In fact, more than most, this is a director centric film. And that, along with the choice of topic, is why I think this gets so much critical praise, even if I personally don’t completely agree.

I think it’s the sort of movie that’s probably very rewarding to film studies folks, people of a mind to really get into the history and craft of the medium, etc. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I don’t really swing that way myself.

Well, I don’t know if this is particularly surprising, but while the film impacted me and effected me deeply, I don’t think I’d want to see it again for some time, I’m not sure I’d recommend it unless someone was approaching it from a Film Studies angle, and I am ambivalent as to what I ultimately think of it myself. I am normally a person who can develop a fairly certain opinions about things. This film, while provoking a deep reaction from me to it, somehow won’t let me form an opinion of it. Which I find almost unique in my experience of film. If I am making any sense whatsoever?

Yeah, I know what you mean!