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October 05, 2010: Ozu’s “Tokyo Story”

October 5, 2010

Often I see a film that under the right circumstances, I should love, yet I walk away feeling a little let down after seeing it. Usually, all the major pieces necessary (good acting, writing, direction and of course…photography) are present, but somehow I still find them a little lacking. I usually attribute this feeling to a particular mood I have at the time of viewing, but after seeing Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece “Tokyo Story” today, I realized that there is more than a passing mood to appreciate a truly good film. The best term I can come up with is “openness.” Being open to a film seems to make all the difference. I knew enough about “Tokyo Story” that one would have to have a special frame on mind to watch it. One thing that helped me was to have watched one of Ozu’s previous films (“The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice” see my August 25th review of this film) so I knew Ozu’s style: that his best films focus on Japanese post-war, middle class and deal with family issues. I could tell by the film’s length (over two hours) that I need to watch the film with a bit of Patience (deliberately capitalized…any film with two hours of subtitles needs Patience.) I also knew that Ozu can be slow-paced, as he takes his time to draw out personalities of his characters and I knew that this is considered his most “plotted” and more melodramatic of his films. I also read a few reviews of the film and it seems that people either love “Tokyo Story” or hate it.

So. Instead of giving you a lot of details about the film, I want you to trust me and just to see “Tokyo Story” with “openness.” In general, the film is about family and the inherent lessons about life that can be learned, via family. If you are Japanese, you’ve probably lived through issues that come up in this film, and if you are Western I promise you will recognize personality traits of characters of the family Ozu portrays. Also, the film’s most important feature is that it concentrates on the Japanese zen-like concept of “mono no aware” or “the sweet sadness of life” which is that at the moment you experience the most profound joy of your life you are also aware that that moment is temporary. If all of this is not quite enough to give you impels to see “Tokyo Story,” another draw (for me, at least) was that this film was rated in the top ten best film of all time in several lists that I found! Give yourself some time, patience, a little “openness” and give “Tokyo Story” a try.

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