8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two great films from the master of minimalism
Ozu Yasujir˘ was one of the greatest film directors and after decades of obscurity outside Japan it is cause for celebration that at last BFI are doing him proud by releasing all 36 of his surviving films on both DVD and Blu-ray. The way the films are being released is also to be applauded. The earliest films have been offered in box sets, the Student Comedies and the...
Published 8 months ago by Film Buff
11 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad transfer of a masterwork.
I am sorry to disagree with a previous review, but the image quality is rather bad, heartbreakingly disappointing. Details are barely sharper than in the DVD, and contrast is surprisingly lower (when compared to the US Criterion release, my only other version). But the worst is that there are light and dark bands on the gray areas all throughout the movie. Maybe I see...
Published on 23 Jan 2011 by Francisco JosÚ Poyato Ariza
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two great films from the master of minimalism,
This review is from: Tokyo Story / Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (DVD + Blu-ray)  (DVD)
Ozu Yasujir˘ was one of the greatest film directors and after decades of obscurity outside Japan it is cause for celebration that at last BFI are doing him proud by releasing all 36 of his surviving films on both DVD and Blu-ray. The way the films are being released is also to be applauded. The earliest films have been offered in box sets, the Student Comedies and the Gangster Films making up two desirable items, while the late post-war masterpieces are offered in duel releases, the Blu-ray versions as supplements to the DVDs containing one `main' feature each coupled with one of his earlier sound films from the 30s/40s. In this way we get to see rare films which we ordinarily might pass over and realize that they are every bit as good as the main features they support.
Ozu's greatness is evidenced by a staggeringly high level of consistency throughout his output from his early silents to his final austere masterworks. None of his films are revered more than Tokyo Story and its release here is as good as it's ever likely to be. A fire destroyed the original negative and only second-rate copies stay in existence - hence the poor quality compared with other Ozu of this period. Still, the b/w images are crisp and the sound sharp. Not having a Blu-ray player I can't comment on the first disc, but the DVD is certainly very good. The support feature is The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family which has been chosen by BFI because it has the same theme of generation conflict and people being spurned within their own families. In Tokyo Story the grandparents are pushed from pillar to post, none of their unloving children wanting to take care of them. In Toda Family it is the grandmother and the unmarried daughter who get the treatment. The quality of the original transfer of Toda Family, alas, isn't top notch. There's a lot of surface noise, especially when reels are changed with volume drop outs and surface scratching. Even though BFI have obviously done the best they can with the original source the picture quality is blurry at best. That said it is still watchable and we can see that it's a wonderful film which in its own way is as good as Tokyo Story, in fact providing a very thought-provoking contrast. The earlier film reflects the optimism of pre-Pearl Harbor Japan when the war was still going their way, while the later masterpiece is pregnant with the air of defeat and post-war melancholy. BFI have released the 2 discs with a decent booklet carrying a useful article by Joan Mellen, a reaction to Tokyo Story by NFT programmer John Gillet, full cast details and a brief biography of Ozu by Tony Rayns. I have one slight caveat concerning the complete lack of extras. Tokyo Story consistently appears in experts' Top 10s and for a film of this stature surely a commentary (by someone informed about Ozu and Japanese culture) is in order. Nevertheless, this issue is strongly recommended - essential viewing in fact.
Before I turn to the films in more detail, as a long-term resident in Japan I'd like to offer a few insights into what makes Ozu special. He has been called `the most Japanese' of the great directors and of the `big three' I'd say this is true though Mizoguchi Kenji also has a strong claim. But where Mizoguchi's focus lies on `high' Japanese culture (folk tales, Kabuki theater, N˘h drama, etc) Ozu's subject is everyday family life. His films reflect culture and attitudes that are unique to Japan which foreigners (I'm thinking of myself when I first arrived here 20 years ago) find opaque and difficult to comprehend. There is no doubt that the family is the central unit of Japanese society and Ozu's films are full of the feeling of maintaining `wa' (harmony) between family members and friends. Society here is anything but straightforward. Nothing is said or done directly (for example, in the Japanese language there are no words for `yes' or `no' and opinion-giving is frowned upon) for fear of causing offence and it is the upholding of an agreeable `tatamae' (surface) which is the oil of Japanese social discourse. For this reason Ozu's films are full of (seemingly) mundane conversations about everyday things - the weather, basic greetings, conversation about superficial subjects and statements of the obvious. Family occasions and ceremonies assume central importance with funerals, weddings and commemoration rituals taking up so much of the narrative focus even if (through typical Ozu narrative ellipsis) they might not be shown.
Japanese people generally avoid direct statement of emotions and foreigners not used to the country might find this odd and cold, but beneath the (for foreigners) bland surface harmony there is an ocean of deep emotion which is evidenced only obliquely, subtly and with great restraint. It is this feeling that lies at the heart of Ozu's universe. For those with the equipment to register it (Japanese people and those foreigners who understand their mentality) his films are extraordinarily moving. For those without, even if the technical achievements can still be grasped, the films may appear to be about nothing at all. This is the barrier preventing many from appreciating Ozu.
International producers were scared to release films which seemed only to appeal to insular Japanese tastes. In the 1950s when both Ozu and Mizoguchi were arguably at their height it was perhaps their misfortune to fall under the shadow of Kurosawa Akira, their younger `rival' who propelled Japanese cinema onto the world stage in 1950 by triumphing at Cannes with Rashomon. This was the first Japanese film most Americans and Europeans had ever seen and audiences of the time can be forgiven for assuming that Kurosawa's cinema was emblematic of Japanese culture as a whole, but looked at objectively we can see that influences on Kurosawa (ranging from Shakespeare to Dostoyevsky and from John Ford to Carl Theodor Dreyer) were fundamentally western. In fact his films have never sat easily with some Japanese people because of their bold metaphysical speculation where images and script are always aiming to `make a statement'. It's important to realize that this is fundamentally a western aesthetic and that a number of people in Japan accused Kurosawa (some still do) of intellectual snobbery and arrogance. The fact that after he left Toho studio in 1965 he had difficulty finding funds, ending up going to Russia to make Dersu Uzala and then making Kagemusha, Dreams and Ran with foreign money, shows how much he was ill-trusted in his home country.
Contrast Kurosawa with Ozu. Ozu was a life-long Shochiku company `salaryman', making only 3 of his 53 films away from that studio. From the time of The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family onwards he was considered a model of reliability in that he made sh˘min geki (domestic dramas) which made pots of money for Shochiku who were happy to let him use their best actors and technicians. Foreigners might see Ozu as an art house name, a director who made odd films of little interest to a wider audience. Actually, he was hugely popular in Japan, capturing great commercial success when he was alive. The artists that made up the Ozu family who always worked with him (writers Fushimi Akira, Ikeda Tadao and Noda K˘go; cameramen Yuharu Atsuta and Mohara Hideo; composers It˘ Senji and Sait˘ Kojun; actors Hara Setsuko, Iida Choko, Mitsui Koji, Miyake Kuniko, Sugimura Haruko, Ryű Chishű, Saburi Shin and others) all owe their careers to him and stay deeply loved by Japanese people to this day. Unlike Mizoguchi, Ozu showed indifference to whether he was accepted (or even distributed) overseas and was content to make films about his favorite subjects, adopting reactionary techniques which seemed to contradict the norm at the time, but consequently now seem so modern with his achievements surely set to last. Ozu's famous `minimalist' technique is rendered through his suppression of usual dramatic effect by the heavy usage of narrative ellipse, a camera that almost never moves, cutaway so-called `pillow shots' of buildings or nature which act as continuity links, precise `square' framing of images with a low camera looking up at characters (an aesthetic reflecting the interior design of Japanese houses and the screens and tatami straw mats which surround lives which take place mainly on the floor), and a tendency to shoot actors' faces full-on rather than using the over-the-shoulder, action-reaction approach of traditional Hollywood cinema. This puts the audience squarely in the film itself, a feeling alien to those weaned on the western norm.
The world of Ozu wasn't so different from the world of his Japanese audiences when his films were first released and the attendant themes involved (family conflict, social transition, a search for selflessness which is seldom found, the growing up process) reverberate strongly even in today's society in Japan. His films are simple, dedicated and reflect on the deepest of emotions in everyday life without resorting to intellectual bombast or camera trickery. Ozu's aesthetic is pure, subtle, refined and it is in this indirect appeal to our emotions that he shows his innate Japanese-ness. I have already said that Japanese people are not known for showing their emotions directly, but that does not mean they are not emotional. An Ozu film is a hugely emotional experience which is achieved as it were out of nothing. The biggest compliment you can give an actor, a writer or a director is where the mechanics of their craft disappear, and in an Ozu film everything seems effortless and completely natural. One would never know Ozu had prepared each scene meticulously at the script stage, had every camera set-up firmly in his head in advance and went on to demand absolute obedience to his complex preparations from everyone while shooting on set.
In the 50s when Europe was about to be hit by a French New Wave of vibrant self-reflexive film-making, the reactionary Ozu was going in the opposite direction, crafting out exquisite family dramas where ticks and tropes of style don't exist. We are moved in a profound and quietly devastating manner which is really quite unique to him, though echoes of his style are to be found today in the films of Hou Hsiao Hsien and Kore-eda Hirokazu. In fact in a world where the films of Theo Angelopoulos, Abbas Kiarostami and Béla Tarr (other masters of the narrative ellipse who are often accused of obscurity) have found sympathetic audiences around the world perhaps the climate is now right for Ozu to be recognized everywhere as the master he really was.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF THE TODA FAMILY (Todake no ky˘dai)
(Japan, 1941, 100 minutes, b/w, Japanese language - English subtitles, Original aspect ratio 1.33:1)
This was a landmark film for Ozu. His 38th feature, it was his first box office hit and together with the following hugely popular There was a Father (Chichi Ariki) (1942) it cemented the trust that Shochiku studio had in him following his return from fighting in China, paving the way for an extraordinarily fertile post-war period. Ozu wrote the story with his regular collaborator Ikeda Tadao, but this was the first time cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta and actors Saburi Shin and Takamine Mieko worked with him. All would be Ozu regulars from this film onwards.
The film charts the disintegration of the rich Toda family introduced at the beginning by a family photograph session taking place in their imposing back garden to celebrate the birthday of Mrs. Toda (Katsuragi Ayako). She and her husband Shintaro (Fujino Hideo) have five grown up children, two sons and three daughters. It takes time for the film to introduce these characters, and at the beginning it is only the second unmarried son, Shojiro (Saburi Shin) who stands out because of his bad manner. His tardiness for the photo and his immediate disappearance to go fishing would appear to mark him out as a bad egg, but actually in typical Ozu fashion he undergoes a redemption and turns out to be the only offspring/sibling worthy of the name. The evening of the photo session, the patriarch of the family has a heart attack and in a trademark ellipse we cut straight from sibling reaction to the otsuya (the ceremony performed on the eve of the funeral) shown with a camera shot of an array of the guests' bowler hats on a tatami floor, the ceremony taking place in the next room. Shojiro's tardiness is again emphasized. The siblings gather later to digest the news that their father has died leaving massive debts that must be paid by selling off family property and artifacts. This leaves the widowed matriarch and the youngest unmarried daughter, Setsuko (Takamine Mieko) in a state of penury and totally reliant on the charity of the older married siblings.
Ozu demonstrates the cold selfishness of the second generation over the events of the next year. With Shojiro working in China, at first the two ladies live with the eldest son, Shinichiro (Saito Tatsuo) and his self-obsessed wife Kazuko (Miyake Kumiko) who uses them as servants, getting rid of them when she receives guests and ordering them to go shopping for her. Unable to stand the humiliation, the two victims try their luck with the eldest sister Chizuru (Yoshikawa Mitsuko) who is even worse than Kazuko. A terrible snob, she forbids Setsuko to get a job for fear of embarrassing the family and attacks her own mother for conniving with her truant-playing son. The downward spiral reaches rock bottom when the two `exiles' visit the second sister, Ayako (Tsubouchi Yoshiko). In Japanese culture it is rude to ask for anything. You have to wait to be asked by the other person who hopefully is sensitive to your need. So when the pair tell Ayako they plan to move back into the dilapidated old family home the sister is supposed to recognize her responsibility and offer them her house. Instead, in crass violation of basic Japanese courtesy she seizes the chance to get rid of them by supporting their proposal.
Ozu's treatment of the story is typically simple and direct. There are no arguments, no histrionics, just quiet defiance and the spirit of `gaman' (toleration) shown by the victims. And yet their plight is rendered so terribly moving through subtle means - Setsuko complaining to her friend Tokiko (Kuwano Kayoko) in very mild terms, Mrs. Toda's resigned tolerance of Chizuru's selfish bullying of her, and in simple cutaways to the picture of the dead husband on the wall presiding over events and the caged bird symbolizing their owners' caged existence. The sadness of the film is leavened by the happy conclusion, Shojiro returning from China for the father's ishuki (first year death anniversary) to tick off his siblings. He sends them all packing and agrees to look after his mother and Setsuko by taking them back to China with him. He even agrees to an arranged marriage with Setsuko's dull friend Tokiko. The caged bird also gets to join in the fun. The idea of a Japanese family escaping to a country against which they had been fighting an aggressive war for over a decade might raise a few eye-brows in today's western audiences, but the film's concluding lightness and satirical touch is entirely typical of Ozu's pre-war style. As Tokyo Story reflects, things in Japan were about to take an altogether darker turn.
TOKYO STORY (T˘ky˘ Monogatari)
(Japan, 1953, 136 minutes, b/w, Japanese language - English subtitles, Original aspect ratio 1.33:1)
With so many glowing reviews and articles on the net celebrating this glorious film, it is difficult for me to know what else I could possibly add. It is one of my favorites and indeed it's difficult to imagine a more perfect film. As always with Ozu the subject is family, specifically the relationships between parents and children and the generation conflict that rages between them. This conflict is on one level entirely natural, but in his post-war films there is a second level of enforced melancholy imposed by Japan's defeat in World War II.
The film opens on a quiet coastal town scene (a place called Onomichi in southwest Japan) with images of transience and impending change - boats move in the harbor, a train is seen and a whistle is heard. Watch carefully here as the images are echoed right at the end giving the film a miraculous sense of balance. We cut to an old couple, Shukichi and Tomi Hirayama (the wonderful Ryű Chishű and the no-less perfect Higashiyama Chieko) who are packing for an impending trip. The film's `drama', if it can be called that, revolves around their trip to Osaka and Tokyo to visit their four grown-up children, leaving the fifth unmarried youngest daughter Ky˘ko (Kagawa Ky˘ko) behind. Following the pattern of Toda Family they visit their offspring in descending order of age and find that each one of them is so involved in their own lives that they have no time to treat their parents properly. The oldest son Koichi (Yamamura So) is a pediatrician who with his wife spoil their two children rotten and fail to acknowledge their responsibilities. Feeling like intruders, the old couple move on to the eldest daughter, Shige (Sugimura Haruko). Shige runs a hairdressing salon and is reluctant to give over space and time to the couple. She and Koichi decide to get rid of the old couple, splitting the cost and booking them into a noisy inn at the seaside where they spend a very uncomfortable night - the scene where they are disturbed in bed by the noise with the camera simply pointing at their slippers outside their door is heart-breaking.
The next morning Tomi complains of a slight pain in her back. That's all we need in an Ozu film to know that tragedy is not far away. They return to Tokyo and don't know where to go. Both Koichi and Shige have shown little signs of welcome and they bide their time in Ueno Park (a place known in Japan as a place where derelicts hang out). The couple decide to split up, Tomi imposing on Noriko (Hara Setsuko), the widowed wife of their son Shoji who was killed in the war, and Shukichi going drinking with two old mates. These two scenes are very interesting, the first dwelling on Japan's loss in the war, the sacrifices Noriko has had to make and the feeling that she must stop dwelling on the past and think to the future by searching out a new husband. The second depicts the disappointment of the old generation in the lack of ambition of the new. Again, the transformation in Japanese society is subtly dealt with by the acknowledgment that children can never grow up to satisfy their parents enough. A very funny drunk scene (you would never guess Ryű Chishű is playing a character 20 years older than his real life age) where he and his friend crash in on Shige is followed by the next morning's brief farewell scene at Tokyo station. Ozu inserts one of his astonishing ellipses which omits the train ride, shows the couple briefly in their youngest son Keizo's (Osaka Shir˘) apartment with a brief reference to Tomi's sickness on the train, and the next thing we know they are home in Onomichi and the siblings are making preparations to visit Tomi who is now critically ill.
The film's pulsing heart lies in the absolutely staggering performance of Hara Setsuko as Noriko (this film is part three of the so-called `Noriko Trilogy', the other two being Late Spring and Early Summer where Hara plays two other - unconnected - characters of the same name). She is the only one who displays love and consideration to her parents-in-law as she takes them sight-seeing around Tokyo and puts up Tomi, her dark dingy apartment demonstrating that though she has suffered greatly she gives much more to Tomi than any of her richer siblings in-law. In a sequence which says everything about the heart-breaking subtlety of Ozu's style, when everyone convenes in Onomichi it turns out that Noriko hasn't brought her mofuku (funeral kimono) with her. She has come only thinking her mother-in-law will live. Shige however arrives with her mofuku at the ready and after Tomi passes away she demands to take Tomi's kimono and obi (the kimono's belt) in a very cold fashion. One lady has come to Onomichi thinking about life and what she can do to help her mother-in-law while the other lady has come only thinking about death and how she can make something out of it.
And yet, the beauty of the film lies in Ozu's even-handed treatment of the characters. Even the worst characters are shown to be sympathetic as shown in the wonderful final dialog when Ky˘ko is leaving Noriko for the last time. She complains bitterly about how cold and selfish her siblings are, but the worldly wise Noriko advises that their behavior is simply normal. In the straightened condition of post-war Japan people really only have time to think about themselves and it is right to prioritize the concerns of their own offspring over their parents. As Noriko says, that is the nature of life. And really if we look closely at the behavior of the older siblings, both Koichi and Shige are trapped by their circumstances. Koichi can't take care of his parents because he has patients to tend while as despicable as Shige's behavior appears to be (especially to western eyes) when she breaks down into tears on hearing her mother is about to die, she is completely redeemed (we must remember that Sugimura Haruko was deeply beloved of Japanese audiences). Ozu is even careful not to make the old people completely `good'. There are references to Shukichi's past heavy drinking and his comment that he regrets not having been kinder to his wife while she was alive. The film is full of very real tangible emotion, but it never overflows into sentimental soap as the same story would in a Hollywood version. The ending of this film is the most moving ending in all of cinema and it's achieved with the most delicate restraint.
Tokyo Story is always singled out for huge praise, but this is because it was the only one of Ozu's films to be released overseas during this period. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it's slightly more melodramatic (and therefore `accessible') than usual for Ozu, while the second is that the story of an old couple being spurned by the younger generation is something western audiences can easily relate to, the film being less `Japanese' than other masterpieces from this period like Late Spring and Early Summer which carry cultural references which might seem opaque to foreigners. Lovers of Ozu will know though that a number of his films are indeed on the same exalted level as Tokyo Story. To ask which one is Ozu's best is rather like asking which Beethoven symphony (or should I say `Bach cantata'?) is the best. The question is redundant - all his films demand to be seen.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Blu-ray for wonderful Ozu Tokyo Story,
This review is from: Tokyo Story / Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (DVD + Blu-ray)  (DVD)
Well, what a wonderful film Ozu's Tokyo Story is. I had seen this before, but not really been in the right kind of mood to take it just what a subtle, timeless masterpiece this film really is! It's all about family, human behaviour and day-to-day emotions, really. The story is simple, but the experience is sublime.
This Blu-ray is of superior quality to the DVD releases of Tokyo Story. Still it's not remastered to the level of some period restorations of old films. The problems must be in the original print, I guess. The picture is not pristine. There are various technical problems. The resolution is not as high as you might expect. The blacks and whites are not as deep, resolved or contrast-y as you might wish for. Still, it seems this is the best the film will look, for now - perhaps for a very long time.
It's the version to own though, and comes with an additional film that sadly I've not yet had time to watch.
BFI are to be commended overall too, for committing to such an extensive release catalog of Ozu's films on Blu-ray, especially given the current economic climate. Ozu's colour films on BD are on their way soon too!
Overall, a really special film given a reasonably good technical treatment - and standing out as the best available version of a classic, heartwarming, simply yet very moving, special moment of (Japanese and world) cinema history. Highly recommended.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a blessing.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Criterion Collection: Tokyo Story [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
I am sitting in front of this screen failing to get a purchase on what it is I want to say about this film - my flimsy adjectives and superlatives are hopelessly inadequate. If it was just the artistic quality of the filmaking I would be fine; able to use words like, luminous, exquisite, perfect, genius. But it's the fact that all of this is in the service of something infinitely more overwhelming that leaves me speechless. For Catholics amongst you all I can say is that it is a little bit like a cinematic equivalent of the life of St Thérèse of Lisieux: small and hidden things, done with great love.
Most all of the time I agree with Hitchcock's wonderfully affirming and unpretentious, "Some film makers make movies that are like a slice of life - I make movies that are like a slice of cake." Afterall, an awful lot of cinema, (hell, an awful lot of everything!) is dismally self-important and self-satisfied. However, there are few works of art that bear witness to the transfiguration of our small lives by love with as much truthful beauty as Ozu's Tokyo Story. The actress who plays the daughter-in-law in the film, Setsuko Hara, gave up acting a few years later and went into solitude and prayer in the buddhist town of Kamakura. She is still there today. As the dear mother says at one moment in the film, giving thanks quite simply, for the day's good weather, "it is a blessing." And so it is.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "How long are your parents staying for?",
This review is from: Tokyo Story / Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (DVD + Blu-ray)  (DVD)
Tokyo Story is nearly sixty years old now, but this black and white, Japanese classic is as relevant today as it was then. Its themes concerning an aging couple who are taken for granted and dismissed by their grown children has a universal truth which is often uncomfortable to watch as we realise that what is happening on screen could easily occur in our own lives - be it as the neglectful offspring, or the ignored parents.
Shukichi and his wife Tomi finally arrive in Tokyo by train where they meet up with their children in turn. As they resti after the long journey, their hosts consider what to feed them and assure themselves that there'll be enough to go round. It's not long before visitors make brief visits around work commitments to see the elders and dutifully drop by to say hello. This is very reminiscent of 21st century life where we often find ourselves juggling obligations. Instead of enjoying the company of Shukich and Tomi, family members seem relived when they hear that ma and pa are being visited by someone else that day, it means that they don't have to bother. It's not that they don't love them, it's that they don't want to put any effort into seeing them as they think they will be content enough.
As they spend more time in Tokyo it becomes more apparent that they are an inconvenience with their children struggling to find time to see them or take them out. The four children settle for the minimum amount of entertaining that they can get away with, always hoping that they won't be lumbered with them, that someone else will take them out and keep them occupied for a bit. The perfect solution comes when they send their parents away to a hotel, convincing themselves that it's in their best interests - it also happens to be cheaper than taking them out and means that a couple of old folk won't be taking up their time.
The spouses eventually reflect that "this place is for the younger generation", you feel as though they aren't just referring to the noisy hotel they find themselves in, instead it's almost a admission of defeat and a sadly profound statement that they now have no place in their children's lives now that they have family and jobs of their own. They've become an old couple roaming between relatives rather than valued members of the family whose stories and wisdom should be shared, enjoyed and respected. It's when we see the two joking together or when "father" comes home blind drunk that we are reminded that this old pair are just as socially capable as the younger generations, they simply never get a chance to show it.
The film progresses at a slow pace, but it never drags. This Yasujiro Ozu directed slice of family life is now considered to be something of a masterpiece and Ozu's trademark style is evident. The camera angles tend to be shot from waist height and it gives the impression that you are in the room with the characters as they talk above you. The stationary camera often seems to be looking through doorways or along passages, it gives the film a voyeuristic feel - as if we're secretly watching on cameras planted around the house. Tokyo Story provides us with an insight into 1950s Japanese domestic life and Ozu plants us right in there with no pretence, it's an incredibly honest way of filming which contrasts with the glamorous Hollywood scene of the time - there's no soft focus here, we see everything warts and all.
This Blu-ray release is a bit of a disappointment, there is regular horizontal banding on the film which looks as though it's been taken from an old VHS copy rather than a clean master copy. The Blu-Ray does look marginally better than the DVD but there's no significant improvement here. It's a shame as there has clearly been some effort made with this release - the inclusion of `Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family' on DVD is a nice bonus, but ultimately the buyers of title are wanting to see Tokyo Story and it would have been nice to say that the Blu-Ray was a worthy `upgrade'. Nobody is expecting this to be crystal clear, but it's obvious from what I've read that previous releases on DVD haven't suffered from the banding which is present here.
The subtitles initially seem a bit difficult to see and the white text sometimes clashes with brighter backgrounds - though my eyes seem to adjust quite quickly. The sound on this Blu-Ray is tinny and at times a bit 'screechy' - but this is to be expected from a film which is sixty years old - it's fair to that it wasn't filmed with high definition and 5.1 surround sound in mind! But as soon as your ears get attuned to the audio (and it only takes a few moments), it's clear that the gentle background hiss and mono audio is atmospheric and quite beautiful. The music itself is kept to minimum - the opening and closing melody is a emotive piece of music which sums up the mood of the film perfectly.
In a nutshell: A 5 star film which gets 4 stars from me as the overall release could have been better. Tokyo Story is a film which resonates long after it has finished and no matter what your age, you will be able to identify with the characters in the film. Some of the closing dialogue offers a sobering bit of philosophy: "As children get older, they drift away from their parents", though this doesn't justify treating them as a burden on your time, I hope I don't make the same mistake.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless masterpiece,
On paper it seems like an uneventful script. Two elderly people visiting their grown up children? What follows is one of the intense humanistic Tales from th 20th century and rightfully included in the top 10 of best movies ever.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional,
I loved the understated acting, the moving story and the whole feel and quality of the film and the acting. One of my all time favourite films. A must see film for those who love Japanese films.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing film,
Although the Bluray transfer is not fantastic (see the new Metropolis BR as a example of what can be done), the film blew me away. The film is almost 60 years old and yet the theme (children being too concerned with their own lives and "neglecting their parents" - a cultural no-no that still holds true in a great many societies in the far East) is one that strikes me as particularly pertinent, especially in our western so-called developed society. For this reason, the film does not come across as dated and the discourteous, dismissive behaviour of the children and grandchildren resonated greatly with my life experiences even though I am in my forties. The parents who come from the country to visit their generally obnoxious offspring, exhibit great dignity and elicit great pathos in the viewer. The selfishness of the too busy to give a S*** children is beautifully counterpointed by generosity, respect and humanity displayed by the parents widowed daughter-in-law. This film has on more than one occasion been voted the best film of all time; it is certainly a worthy candidate and infinitely superior to the often cited Citizen Kane, a film that despite 3 or more viewings never really did it for me. Tokyo Story is a beautiful film and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A legendary film that is both familiar and alien...and absurd,
Apparently one of a trilogy of films to use the Noriko character (daughter in law, here), I had long wanted to see Tokyo Story after reading about it in Sight & Sound. I was prepared for the fact it might be a little slow.
Timeless, in a sense, given the cycle of life; birth and death, young replaces old. The fact that the camera rarely moves adds to the effect and actually helps to prevent the film from feeling lethargic, although your body may rebel at some point during the 2.25hr duration.
An old couple make a journey to Tokyo for a reunion with their modern adult children. The parents are treated as a burden by their blood relatives; only the daughter in law, Noriko, has any real time for them. And so it goes.
The fascination, and the problem, with Tokyo Story is that everyone is so tight-lipped, so insanely polite, that the carelessness, the offence, the emotional content is almost invincible. Strictly implicit; it is there because we feel it must be. Only extraordinary acts of kindness - or extraordinary amounts of sake - bring the feelings to the surface. If you've ever watched a Jane Austen adaptation and longed for someone to start yelling or smash something, Ozu's discretion might tip you over the edge. But still, it is a glimpse of old world Japan. The Japanese are famous for their good manners, their almost demented etiquette, and this is a chance to witness that without samurai or warlords or martial artists' bellowing. Everything is recognisable and yet the restraint is alien and yet admirable.
I know, it's sacrilege to give only 4-stars, but for a non-Japanese, non-academic viewer, the fixed smiles of the parents and the curious cadences of Japanese speech, can quickly make for a feeling of outright ABSURDITY. I was reminded of Beckett more than once; and of Woody Allen's Love & Death: "Life is unbearable."
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting film,
This review is from: Criterion Collection: Tokyo Story [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
At the film festival where I watched this film, almost half the audience got up and walked out long before the end - that will tell you that it is not a film that will have mass appeal, especially if you take into account that film festival audiences are normally more into art films than the "normal" filmgoing public. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful movie, which will richly reward those with the patience to carefully consider what is happening and what is being said.
An elderly Japanese couple living in a rural town decides to visit their children in Tokyo. There is the doctor Koichi, the hairdresser Shige and their daughter-in-law Noriko, who works as a lowly clerk in an administrative office. She was married to their son who was killed eight years before during World War Two. On the way to Tokyo they stop at Osaka station, where they meet up with their other son. The old couple is not really welcome in Tokyo, Koichi and Shige being far too busy with their own lives to sacrifice time to spend with them. The cramped space in the Tokyo apartments also means that it is quite uncomfortable for them. Only Noriko gives up her time and specially takes off from work to show them around. She goes out of her way to make them feel welcome. The children send the old couple off to a spa to get rid of them. The spa does not cater for their more sedate lifestyle and they decide to go back home. Upon returning to Tokyo unexpectedly, they find that their children cannot put them up for the night and they are forced to split, the mother staying with Noriko and the father forced to look up some old friends from his village now staying in Tokyo. On the way back home, the mother falls ill and she has a stroke upon her arrival back home. The children has to hurry if they still want to see her before she dies, forcing them to look into their priorities to decide how they will handle this new development.
So far the storyline. Not much outward action, with the action (feelings and emotions) happening within the characters. The major clue the viewer get is through the scene setting and the words and being Japanese, they are polite to a fault. It is only once you put yourself into the shoes of the characters that the emotional force hits you and the understatement actually adds to the impact. This is aided beautifully by the scene setting. In one scene, when the old couple realises that they have to make alternate arrangements to spend the night, they are sitting on the sidewalk eating their lunch (like hobos would, but still in the dignified manner they portray throughout the film), and the father says: "Now we are really homeless". This is just one example of how the setting and the words complement each other.
The film has a lot going for it. It is an in-depth study of ordinary people in an ordinary family and their lives, frustrations, ambitions and relationships. It examines how people are so preoccupied with what is happening in their own small worlds that they lose sight of what is really important in life. It sheds light not only on the parent-child relationship, but is also very insighful in its portrayal of the relationship between the mother and father. Whilst they are clearly happy together, there is just the hint of their past and present relational problems and a subtle reminder of the need to cherish that which is precious, especially if it is not everlasting. It is enlightening about Japanese culture, manners and way of doing things and it sheds a great deal of light on that nation's psyche after World War Two. The generally polite and reserved nature of conversation is only sometimes breached, always with significant impact, as when the mother opens up her heart to Noriko ("I am a burden to everyone") or when at the end Noriko opens up her heart to her father-in-law about her desires. Because this happens out of culture and is a rare portrayal of intimacy, the impact is enhanced.
A beautiful film then, which can be regarded as a true classic. Why only four and not five stars? The subtitles were a little disappointing. Whilst I do not know Japanese, the subtitles sometimes seemed clumsy and not as refined as one would expect, which was out of step with the general sophisticated "feel" of the film ("It is such a privilege to sleep in my dead son's bed" is one example). I suspect that the translators did not always capture the essence of the meaning, rather concentrating on a literal translation. Often there is conversation with no subtitles - whilst one suspect that it is mundane conversation such as "thank you" or "good morning", it is disconcerting to hear people talking and not see the subtitles. Towards the end, with the essential messages already delivered, the film then dragged on a bit, with no new insights being added - bearing in mind it is already slow-moving.
A wonderful film, thoroughly recommended - but not everybody's cup of tea.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD,
Very good movie and the picture quality was excellent. Very good story line and I really enjoy movies like this
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Tokyo Story / Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (DVD + Blu-ray)  by Yasujiro Ozu (DVD - 2010)