Tokyo Story

From 1953, one of the classic texts of Japanese cinema

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Theatrical reissues are so common now that we’re starting to get ‘masterpiece fatigue’ as critics, like starving dogs, dub a ‘gem’ every trinket from the archive. But?honestly?this one (showing at the NFT this month) is the real deal. Yasujiro Ozu’s composed, moving and timeless exposition on generational conflict and loss has to be seen in a cinema to get the full impact of its soft-spoken, painterly aesthetic.

The story is simple: an old couple (Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama) come to Tokyo to visit their family, but the kids are too busy to bother with them. They go home, the grandmother dies, and then the progeny travel to the funeral. Naturally, it’s all in the telling, particularly in Ozu’s trademark low-angle, bestilled camerawork and subtle use of sound. See it and you’ll not only understand why this film features so often in Top 10 lists of greatest films of all time, but you’ll recognise an original that’s been copied (but never bested) by a thousand film-makers, from Kurosawa to Tarantino.


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