Blind Spot 90: TOKYO STORY

Last year as part of my Criterion Project I was introduced to the famed Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu and his film Late Spring. It was one of my favorite episodes of the podcast as we had Dave Fiore and Elise Moore from the There’s Sometimes a Buggy podcast. They are experts on classic film, Ozu, and actress Setsuko Hara who stars in Late Spring and other Ozu films. I enjoyed our discussion so much that it inspired me to pick another Ozu film for Blind Spot this month: Tokyo Story and it proves to be another winner.

There are some people who will find Tokyo Story to be boring and I can understand that as not much happens plot-wise. However, not all movies are about the plot. Some are about the characters and giving us a chance to walk in the shoes of other humans for a couple of hours. That’s what Ozu does here in Tokyo Story. I defy any viewer to not relate to these characters- even when they are being petty and frustrating (maybe especially when they are so?)

Tokyo Story tells the story of an elderly couple who come to Tokyo to see their grown up children including a daughter-in law Noriko who was married to a son killed in World War II. None of the couple’s children have time for their parents but their busyness is understandable and most of us have been annoyed by family even if we don’t want to admit it. At one point the Father says “losing your children is hard but living with them isn’t easy either.” I don’t have any children myself but isn’t that the case with family? We love them fiercely but also wish we could be alone away from them at the same time. Who can’t relate to such feelings?

The daughter-in-law played by Hara is the kindest and most welcoming to the couple and a lot of that comes from the natural warmth and kindness the actress embodies in all her roles. I also think every family has the person who keeps everyone together and happy (I am not that person…) just like Noriko does for her adopted family.

Ozu and his cinematographer Yūharu Atsuta have crafted a beautiful, intimate film with Tokyo Story that feels like it could have been made today instead of 1953. In fact, if it was remade today I don’t know if anything would be different with this family except there would be more ways to communicate and as a result more ways to forget each other. It’s a very sad story but oddly comforting to know that flawed families exist in every society, in every era, and maybe we can all be more like Noriko and be kinder to our loved ones?

9 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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