Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tokyo Story

Yasujiro Ozu, 1953, Japan, bw (8.0*)
Beautifully filmed and touching story about an elderly Japanese couple who make a major trip for their age to visit as many of their grown-up children as possible on a train trip to Tokyo. This story slowly reveals a well-known one, of how the elderly are often treated with a lack of respect befitting their experience and lifetime of sacrifice for their children. These children can’t seem to set aside time in their self-important daily affairs to treat their parents with even the normal attention one would show out-of-town guests, and often do spend time on idle gossip or even having routine card games with the regulars, or scheming up places to send the parents.

Master director Yasujiro Ozu’s camera may seem a little stilted to western filmgoers but not when taken in its own cultural context of a society with a tradition of asceticism, meditation, austere furnishings, ritualistic ceremony, and for us, rigid social manners. He both touches and angers us in this film that many rate as a timeless masterpiece; it’s #57 on the Top Ranked 1000 list I compiled, #10 on the critics consensus 1000 – so it’s more liked by critics than the general public. For me, it’s perhaps overrated: a little slow with too much silence for my top 100 (I'd trim 20 minutes), but definitely a masterpiece of Japanese cinema with a universal story that should be seen.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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