Tokyo Story DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Produced in 1953
Main Language - Japanese with English subtitles
Every ten years, Sight and Sound magazine polls critics around the world to find out their ten best films of all time. In the last such poll in 2002, Tokyo Story came fifth. It was underrated – it should have come second, after the director's own Late Spring.
Ozu is commonly described as the most 'Japanese' of directors. Absolute nonsense, of course - he's the most universal. For what is Tokyo Story but an echo chamber of everyone's thoughts on family, of every parent's concern for their child's future, of every child's need to break away and the mixture of guilt and relief that follows?
Ozu represents these themes through the simplest narrative possible: an elderly couple visiting their grown-up offspring. But each child has become a care-worn adult – a busy neighbourhood doctor or penny-pinching beautician – that finds their doddering relatives an unwelcome intrusion. So they are moved on, Lear-like, until they end up in the tatty tenement flat owned by their daughter-in-law, Noriko, who lost her husband, their second son, in the war. Ironically, she is the only one who shows them any compassion. (There are so many similarities to the protagonists of Early Summer (also released this month), even down to the names, that this could be considered the same family moved on two years, or High Summer, if you like.)
It's a slight tale, but it's sustained by a remarkable complexity of characterisation and a sure eye for the telling detail – the way the eldest son playfully calls to his pet after hearing of his mother's illness, a hairstyle suggested by the beautician as “stylish” later worn by the hostess of a backstreet bar. There are allusions to characters' pasts – the father's alcoholism, the waspish eldest daughter's childhood innocence – that colour what could have been sentimental archetypes. In all, there is a powerful sense of life lived, stretching out beyond the screen.
This must have been a very personal project for Ozu, who never married and lived his whole life with his mother. But its beauty and clear-eyed understanding make it accessible to all. An essential purchase, especially as the set includes Ozu’s 1941 film, Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, whose themes complement Tokyo Story beautifully. It's also about the death of a parent, this time the patriarch, and the coldness of his children towards their widowed mother and younger sister. The film is notable for its class consciousness and for the fact that it was one of only two that Ozu completed in wartime. It's unrestored and the soundtrack is hissy, but it's great to have this neglected gem finally available.
Michael Bartlett on 23rd March 2010
Author of 26 reviews
Voted one of the ten best films of all time, and widely regarded as Yasujiro Ozu's masterpiece, Tokyo Story is a poignant portrayal of the frailty of family ties, telling of an elderly couple who travel from their rural village home to Tokyo to visit their married son and daughter. Met with selfish indifference and impatience by their children and their grandchildren, they are soon packed off to a health spa - but when Tomi falls ill, her descendants are forced to re-evaluate their priorities. Truly a five-star film.
Also features the full-length Ozu feature, Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family.
Length: 135 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Cat No: BFIB1056
Format: DVD+Blu-ray B&W
- 2 disc combo pack with DVD & Blu-ray
- Standard Definition and High Definition presentations of Tokyo Story (DVD & Blu-ray)
- Ozu’s rare Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941, 100 mins, DVD only)
- Fully illustrated booklet with newly commissioned essay by Professor Joan Mellen and director biography by Tony Rayns
- New and improved English subtitles.
by Anon on 4th August 2008
Masterpieces are regularly cited for their extravagant qualities, but has there ever been a better example of the riches to be found in subtle and refined cinema than ... Read on
Masterpieces are regularly cited for their extravagant qualities, but has there ever been a better example of the riches to be found in subtle and refined cinema than Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece, Tokyo Story (1958).
Its emotional depth is attained through the slightest elements—the various crouched sitting positions of an elderly couple among their distracted adult children, the couple in isolation gazing at the sea, knowing smiles and bitter tears—arranged into a breathtaking purity of expression.
Inspired by Leo McCarey’s sublime Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), Ozu and co-writer Kogo Noda re-tell the tale of the inevitable fragmentation of family life, foregoing McCarey’s Depression-era desperation and emphasizing the quiet regret of Japan’s postwar modernization. They also expertly configure the drama for their favorite actors, including Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, and Haruko Sugimura, all titans of the Golden Age of Japanese cinema.
Above all, Tokyo Story is a film in which viewers recognizes its truthfulness to life and fully absorb its dramatic implications (through Ozu’s famously contemplative aesthetic) as a deeply compassionate experience. Hide
by Anon on 5th January 2004
Pure human love and warmth fill the screen in Ozu's incredibly heart-warming film of tender family life. When the grandparents of a doctor's family come to visit them ... Read on
Pure human love and warmth fill the screen in Ozu's incredibly heart-warming film of tender family life. When the grandparents of a doctor's family come to visit them in urban Tokyo, they are seen as an unwelcome intrusion into their children's lives. The elderly couple is rushed around and given only their half-hearted attention, before being sent to a health-spa. Only the family's widowed daughter-in-law shows kindness and appreciation by devoting herself to them, and Ozu conjures one of cinema's great magical moments when the grandparents embark with their daughter-in-law on a day-trip to Tokyo. Here they are truly happy, walking on foot and riding in a tram, as they marvel and gaze in sublime wonder at the sights of the beautiful city. So rarely has a film so many soul-filled moments which will make you cry and cherish in abundance, the beauty of life before realizing that the fleeting moment has gone.