Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Essential Cinema - 14

Japanese Language with English Subtitles

Tokyo Story

Chishu Ryu
Chieko Higashiyama
Setsuko Hara
Haruko Su gimura
Sô Yamamura
Kuniko Miyake
Kyôko Kagawa

Yasujiro Ozu

Kôgo Noda
Yasujiro Ozu

Yuuharu Atsuta

An aging husband and wife visit their children in 1950s Tokyo. While all are well meaning and polite, the years and the miles between them have taken them all on different paths and they struggle to come to terms with their memories and their expectations.

Intimacy and how things change. A character study of the differences between generations, their expectations (both young and old) and how the modern world has fractured the extended family.

This is a slice of life / contemplation film as opposed to the fantasy / escapism film genre that is marketed to the youth of today. While many newer films have choreographed violence and action as the mainstay of their cinema experience, this film is the opposite. While film is a 'visual' medium, it can be a subtle medium as well, without all the 'eye-candy' and special effects that are so prominent today.

This film is long, over 2 hours, and it took me a while to get all the way through it. By the end of the film, I felt as though I was a part of this family and could sense their pain and grief . This film may not appeal to younger generations, but as we age, this type of cinema becomes more and more endearing to those of us that have experienced more than we allow ourselves to remember.

There are some interesting oddities in the film that stem from the culture in which it was made. All the camera angles are very low, usually less than 3 feet from the floor. Since there were few chairs in 1950s Japan, most of the characters sit on the floor. This is their living space, hence the lower camera angle. Almost everyone in the film has a hand fan, which they are constantly fanning themselves with. In a time before air-conditioning, this was the only way to keep cool in the summer. There is almost no panning on scanning with the camera. Most of the scenes are done with a static camera location with minimal scene editing. Finally, there are a lot of 'lingering' scenes, in which actors leave the frame or exit a room, but the camera keeps rolling for up to 10 seconds before fading to the next scene or editing to a different location. This appears intentional, as though the director wants to let us linger on what has just transpired.

In the end this is a film that makes you think. I love films that do that.