Ozu - Tokyo Twilight / Equinox Flower / Good Morning  [English subtitles] [DVD]
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Triple-bill of classic films from the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, whose delicate, poignant dramas explore the intricacies of human relationships amidst the growing influence of western culture on post-war Japanese society. 'Tokyo Twilight' (1957) follows the journey of two sisters who live with their father, and who have returned to the old family home only to discover that their mother, who they thought was dead, has taken up with another man. 'Equinox Flower' (1958) is Ozu's first film in colour, and recounts the relationship between a young woman and her father over her impending marriage, of which the father doesn't approve. Finally, in 'Good Morning' (1959), a father refuses to buy a television for his family, deciding instead to preserve traditional Japanese values. In protest, his two sons refuse to say another word until the father agrees to relent and buys them the television.
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This was Ozu's last black and white movie and one of his darkest and most bleak.The subject is his traditional one-the tensions that erupt between rebellious children and their more traditionally minded parents.Each character is given dignity,no one generation is apportioned blame due to a complexity of dramatic nuance.The young people are adrift and bereft of hope.The film is set in a district of Tokyo in the dead of winter,cold temperatures abound in the film,the inhospitability increases the alienation.Akiko is a young mother-to-be who feels painfully alone and unwanted.She doesn't communicate much with her father and he can't offer her much more than rote advice,unaware of her specific needs.His daughters often do not speak ar all.Her sister Takako has temporarily left her writer husband because of his alcoholism and is living with her father Shukiki.He feels he made her marry the wrong man,not the man she wanted to.The auntie,Shigeko,is looking for a suitable husband for Akiko but doesn't get to know her niece's sufferings. Her handsome boyfriend doesn't want to take on any burdens and avoids her.The film portrays a whole series of uncomprehending adult advice,the last of which is a bartender who tells her to forget her boyfriend-"there are plenty more fish in the sea"- even though she clearly no longer loves him and is mourning a deeper rootlessness.The loss as a 3 year old of her mother who left for another man.She wonders if her father is her father then finds her mother has moved back into the neighbourhood.She comes to hate her:this leads to her death. Tokyo Twilight lives up to its title in it's wide array of low-key lighting and nighttime shots.Its milieu of smoky bars,crowded mahjong parlours,and claustrophobic streets conveys a troubled Tokyo with stifled secrets.There is very little lighting in most of the scenes,everything becomes more contricted and shadowy.This picture offers a resonant depiction of the travails of modern youth and parenting.
Ozu's first colour movie with a great play on red.Indeed the red higanbana flower that blooms during the autumn equinox.This is a beautifully restrained film whose twin themes are-intergenerational conflict between parents and children,and inconsistency."Everyone is inconsistent, except God",Wataru insists."The sum total of inconsistencies is life!"The daughters usually go their own way and the fathers lose out in the way of letting go.The dominant partner is the one (like Kiyoko)who sides with their daughter.No characters are black and white.Wataru who objects to his daughter's unarranged marriage is an outward proponent of liberal values.The daughters similarly, one outwardly modern with western style clothes,but inwardly accomodating,remaining home when told to do so,accepting her fiance's methods of proposal.In contrast the other dressed in traditional clothes is quick to shrug off her mother's matchmaking and plays the trickster towards Setsuko's father so she can get her way.The colours and framing is precisely orchestrated and balanced,the filming is at waist high level,showing exquisite irony and use of eccentric characters or group dynamics.The music is gentle to suit the tone of the film.
Good Morning is a hilarious film almost capturing the spirit of Jaques Tati and with it's Frenchified music score reminding traditional Japan of the slow creep of consumerism.The younger generation are represented by 2 brothers who rebel against what they see as the pointless small talk of the adult world.This takes place in the housing estate suburbs of Tokyo.Their spirit of rebellion is captured in small gestures,farting jokes(through sucking on pumice stone),avoiding their homework through watching a friend's TV,refusing to speak due to not having their own TV.The houses are filmed looking along their door fronts,and all seem packed so close together that neighbours often greet each other from their open doors,looking straight into their neighbour's house. Everybody knows(or thinks they do) what everyone else is doing.This often leads to gossip and innuendo.Older people show the changes in their lives of retirement or redundancy or the beginnings of young love.One drunken elderly man ends up in the wrong house.There are many comic incidents and episodes,all illustrating the bonds and tie ties between the people in the community.The ending is hopeful and exhilarating with washing flapping in all it's colours on a sunny day.
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