Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Tokyo Story

An old couple from rural Japan visit the big city to see their children, but the hearthy welcome they receive is not quite as hearthy as they expected.
A 50's classic by Ozu, 'Tokyo Story', consistently appears in critics' top ten lists of all time greatest movies. To an audience of today, however, its slow, character-driven approach might be a little alienating. When I first saw it years back, partly because of this, I didn't quite get it.
I do now. After the gentle, relatively uneventful beginning puts us in the appropriate frame of mind, Ozu twists the family dynamics subtly and increasingly. The tears were popping into my eyes just as much as they did for 'Up' (another movie dealing with age and generation alienation). The restrained acting and excruciating politeness of the old couple (and indeed everyone, even the 'villains' of the piece), make every out-of-character outburst as momentous as fifty blockbuster bombshells. It is drama of the old school, borrowing from classical forms while mounted in a neo-realist frame. And over everything hangs the bitter shadow of the war. Like the politeness of the old pair, Ozu is never so crass as to shout out any harsh criticisms of the post-war society Japan has developed. Nevertheless beneath all the beautifully composed shots, the romantic score and unshowy characters, he is voicing strong concerns, all the more startling for their contrast with the film's order. It's an approach Hollywood should have done more to emulate.
Beautiful stuff.
Oh, and IFI, get the heating sorted out in Cinema 3.

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