Isn’t Life Disappointing?

Posted: 20/01/2014 in 1953

tokyo story

For all of the talk of what a masterwork Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story would be before it hit the US, it was easy to fall into the trap of skepticism.  I for one was already gearing myself for the dreaded “it isn’t that good” statements.  Well, I’m here to now go on record by saying it is that good.  This film, in fact, is utterly emotionally devastating.  How do you handle the disappointment of realizing that you are no longer a valued member of a world that you helped built?  We have seen a fair share of contemporary films this year, but Tokyo Story, although it is a foreign language film, captures the truth of the times better than any contemporary film this year!

For all of the trash that Hollywood has fed us this year about modern times and modern people living in it (see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for example), he is a film that, although it takes place a half a world away, captures a human story that all can truly connect with.  What is brilliant about Ozu’s directing is he allows time for self reflection.  As a man with aging parents myself, what kind of a son am I really to them?  What kind of son will about be in 10-20 years?  How will I personally feel when my generation is no longer considered relevant?  Post-World War II Japan, I feel, is a warning to all of us regardless of time or geography.  At the same time, it doesn’t offer any answers.  It offers pause.  And ten years in the wake of the worst war that mankind has ever seen, thank you Mr. Ozu for forcing us to pause and reflect.

This film is further enhanced by the absolutely perfect acting of the entire cast.  You have never heard of these actors, but one must expect that we’ll be hearing so much more about them in the coming weeks.  Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama are absolutely perfect in their roles as the aging Hirayama parents.  Their steadiness brings us to tears, their perseverance makes us hopeful, and their feelings of being lost souls makes us weep.  No two actors this year have generated the feelings deep in our hearts and guts like these two have and I certainly hope they are remembered amongst the heavier hitters and bigger names of the year.  Thank you Chieko Higashiyama for giving these younger American actresses an acting lesson or two.

Tokyo Story is one for the ages.  It is so strong that, although it is in another language and made in another part of the world, it will be remembered through the rest of this year and for years to come.  Thank you Mr. Ozu for this introspective look at humanity.  Job well done sir!

**** ~AOS

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