Cinema Classics Marathon: “Tokyo Story (1953)”



One of the things filmmakers tend to keep an eye on when making films is the past. What worked and what didn’t. Which stars shined, and which ones burned out. We all know the old saying about history. Those who don’t know history, are doomed to repeat it. Critics also have to know the history of cinema, in order to differentiate from the crap and the gold. A good reason to make a marathon out of the classics, is to be able to where the industry standard was; and how far it has come as a business. I also like to how much more creative the storytelling has gotten, or if anyone is at least being innovative.



            Tokyo Story is regarded as one of Asia’s greatest films of all time. The actors and actresses, cinematography, music, and staff all received praise for their contributions. The director, Yasujiro Ozu had already done an extensive amount of work during the silent era of films, and carried over his unique style to the 1940s and 50s. With most of Mr. Ozu’s earlier work being lost from the late-1920s, the director was not truly recognized as a great filmmaker until he directed Early Summer (1951). He followed that up with Tokyo Story, and garnered even more attention. Yasujiro Ozu completed one more film that many regarded as a masterpiece in Floating Weeds (1959). Before he died in 1963, Yasujiro Ozu had been involved in the production of 54 movies.



            The story focuses on two grandparents taking a trip to Tokyo to see their children and families. Problems arise when the children and grandchildren give the couple a lukewarm reception. The two are eventually cared for by the wife of their deceased son. As the story progresses, the true personalities of the children of these grandparents are revealed; with some being selfish and others seeing their parents as an inconvience. Once the final act of the film sets in, we start to see how the grandparents have been “left behind” by their children, and are no longer a big part of their lives. This seems to depress the grandparents, and culminates into one of them falling ill near the end of the third act.



            My thoughts on this film can be summed up by six words.  Life can kind of suck sometimes. One of the subplots that develops and blossoms towards the end, is the grandparents finding out that their kids didn’t strive to be the best at what they did. Whether it was settling to be a neighborhood doctor, or a lowly hairdresser; the grandparents felt a little underwhelmed by what their kids had accomplished in life. And although they were happy to see them all somewhat successful, it’s implied that the grandparents were not impressed. The climax of the film is a solid example of the old, “You don’t miss your water till it’s gone” saying.


            The production value on the film didn’t necessarily hold up as well as I would have liked, with the music then camera work being the strongest aspects. The players involved were brilliant in the way they’re layers were gradually exposed throughout the course of the film. Making who seemed to be the most considerate child of the grandparents into a selfish, shallow witch towards the end of the film was pretty good in and of itself. Not sure if it was intentional or not, or if it’s just part of the culture; but the grandparents in this film were a couple of smiling freaks. They smiled all the time even when they were in the midst of a disagreement. It was really weird, but the moment they had frowns on their faces really stuck out to me. And it’s because the were frowning when they were supposed to be enjoying themselves at a bathhouse. Instead, neither one of them could get any sleep (it’s loud there with all those young folks) and one of them even becomes ill later on. Truly a sad film during the 3rd act.










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