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86 of 87 people found the following review helpful
Like many of Ozu's films, "Tokyo Story" ("Tokyo Monogatari") examines a very simple stage in life, one that I hope most of us will be lucky enough to encounter at some time or another. In this case, it is how we treat our parents once we no longer need them for survival. Are they a bother? Do we resent their old-fashioned ways and slower pace? Are we perhaps a bit too eager to shuffle them to the sidelines?
The story seems so simple, an elderly couple leaves the country to visit their children who have moved away to Tokyo. Country folk meet city folk, age meets youth, life meets death. There are no big blow-ups, no crisis points reached or contrived dramas, just life flowing along as it does. In Ozu's gentle hands, the entire story is told between the lines, with perhaps not a single sentence of direct dialog spoken in the film. Under the calm surface is an ocean of depth, emotions flowing with an unstoppable power, yet never able to breach the veneer of etiquette and politeness.
Ozu's usual cast in at their best. Chishu Ryu plays the father perfectly, flawed and kind, strict in his youth yet lenient in his old age, he is a father-figure more than a father to his impatient children. Chieko Higashiyama plays the kind and appreciative mother, much the same character as in "Early Summer." As always, Setsuko Hara, Japan's "Eternal Virgin," brings light and love into an otherwise dismal story playing Noriko, the widowed Daughter-in-law of Ryu and Higashiyama's son. Setsuko is ironically the only one of their children to appreciate the aged parents, even though she is not a blood-child.
"Tokyo Story" forced me to examine my own treatment of my parents, and consider how I will be treated when it is my time to visit my children. Will they dread my coming? Am I kind to my parents? That is the kind of power this film has.
Of course, the Criterion Collection presentation is wonderful, with one of the best transfers of "Tokyo Story" I have seen. It is far from flawless, but vastly superior to my old VHS copy. The extra documentaries are delightful, and offer some insight into Ozu that in turn offers insight into his wonderful films.
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 15, 2006
Often voted one of the greatest films of all time, Yasujiro Ozu's most famous film (made in 1953, but not released in the US until years later) follows an elderly couple as they leave their seaside town where they live with their youngest daughter, Kyoko, to visit their two eldest surviving children, Shige and Koichi, in Tokyo, stopping to meet their youngest son, Keizo, in Osaka along the way. Although their children seem to mean well, they are greatly inconvenienced by their parents' visit and do not take time off from work to show them around the city, instead asking their widowed sister-in-law Noriko to squire them about instead; Koichi's young sons treat his grandparents with sullen rudeness. Finally, Shige and Koichi dump their parents off at a hot springs resort not far from Tokyo, where the elderly couple feel out of place. On their return by train home, the mother becomes mortally ill, and the grief-stricken children and Noriko must come bury their mother and must face up to or ignore their previous treatment of her and their father.

Ozu considered his film a melodrama because it dealt more straightforwardly with life's tragedies and with grief than his other family dramas from his famed later period do. The film suggests a fairy tale, or King Lear, in that we, like the elderly couple, are positioned to judge the children and Noriko according to who is least and most filial; yet Ozu requires we see the selfishness of the children and the neglect of the parents in more complex terms. (Though this seems beyond the DVD's commentator, David Desser, whose intelligent technical shot-by-shot analysis of the film seems seriously marred by his willingness to engage in simplistic moral judgements of the characters.) Certainly the film is a commentary on human selfishness and the dangers of familial dispersal in an era of alienating modernity after the second World War (when Tokyo, the film's locus for modernity, has been rebuilt almost from the ground up). Yet the film celebrates the new Tokyo as much as it condemns it, and the couple admits to themselves that though their children are not as nice as they remembered, they are happy they are busy and can care for themselves. And the most selfless member of the younger generation Noriko (played by the great Japanese actress Setsuko Hara) points out to the stay-at-home Kyoko that while her siblings appear selfish they have their own lives to lead now that they are in middle age and their own families to care for. And Shige, who seems the most monstrously selfish and hypocritical of the children, seems to have some reasons for resenting her parents: some ridiculous (being embarrassed by her mother's weight as a child when she broke a chair she was sitting in), and others more pointed (her father's tendency to drink heavily before the birth of Kyoko). Ozu is too intelligent and humane to cast this story in terms fo Manichaean opposities; indeed, just as he seems at times to deplore Tokyo's sprawl and industrial quality, he also has the parents and Nariko take a guided bus tour of the city and shows off the city's ability to have bounced back after its Allied war bombing. One of the greatest pleasures of the film are its superb framed compositions, especially in his transitional sequences where he shows us empty rooms, as if to emphasize the transitory nature of human life and family affairs.
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88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2004
Ozu's "Tokyo Story" is simply the most emotionally profound film I have ever seen. It is the sort of film that, after seeing it, may easily change you. I originally purchased the film because I was incredibly interested in the "Ozu style". There are many aspects of this little Japanese man's style, including shots of nature to break up the story, the tatami mat camera angle, the unmoving camera, and the shooting of characters speaking directly into the camera (which makes it all the more profound, it puts the viewer into the story). Ozu scarcely EVER drifted from this style, therefore it MUST have been quite incredible, for he never had the desire to change it. However, although I was compelled by the extremely elegant filmmaking style, it was the emotional impact that sticks with me the most. The story felt very slow as it unwound, with much of the dialogue feeling very small talk-ish. However, despite the fact I was initially disappointed by this small talk-like dialogue, by the end, I realized this slowness of developement made the end all the more powerful. This ending was so powerful that I was completely in tears for the final half hour or so of the film. This film was SO profound that I felt moved upon viewing it. Near the end of the picture, when one of the daughters stated "Life is too short." I was moved. I felt compelled to go out and live it up, for life IS too short. I also realized that I need to be much kinder to my parents, for they give me so much, and they will not be around forever. As is said in one of the more famous and compelling lines from the film, "One cannot serve his parents from beyond the grave".
You will be moved beyond words by one of the greatest films of all time, Yasujiro Ozu's "Tokyo Story"
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
I can honestly say that Tokyo Story is one of the saddest and most poignant movies ever made. It is also a cinematic masterpiece of framing, editing, and pacing. The acting is so real and brilliant, that, when coupled with Ozu's signature POV angles, you feel as if you are witnessing real people and real events. This is a story that we can all relate to, even if we do not want to. The premise is very, very simple: an elderly couple visits their grown up children who live in Tokyo. The children, sadly, view the old people as a burden and a chore. Ironically, the only people kind to the old couple are the widow of their middle-son, and, to a lesser extent, their first daughter's husband.

Tokyo Story is one of those films, like Kurosawa's Rashomon and Hitchcock's Vertigo, that are nearly perfect in every manner. Director Yasujiro Ozu's camera is static, and is usually three feet up off the ground - the height of a person sitting on a tatami mat. His editing is flawless, taking in every motion and movement of the characters, often lingering on an empty room while they are gone to signify the movement and passing of life. Oftentimes, Ozu breaks the sacred cinematic rules of eyelines, and has his characters talk almost directly into the camera. Again, this gives an almost fly-on-the-wall effect for the viewer.

There is little music in Tokyo Story, but when there is music it is well-chosen and situated perfectly. Music, as director Michael Haneke knew for his masterpiece Amour, can be used to cheapen the effect of a scene for sentimental value. Like Haneke after him, Ozu chooses instead to rely on his extraordinarily talented actors, immaculate framing, and a perfect sense of timing to make a point and elicit emotions. He also uses silence. Tokyo Story shows that a well-placed, contemplative second of silence is worth more than all the music in the world.

Yasujiro Ozu's actor's are more than ready for the job. The great star from the Golden Age of Japanese cinema - Setsuko Hara, shines as Noriko, the kindly and goodhearted daughter in law of the Shukichi and Tomi. Haruko Sugimara as Shige performs brilliantly as the often cold but sensible daughter. The rest of the cast is beyond criticism; they all work together as a poignant and believable family. Shiro Osaka as Keizo has a small role, but performed admirably as the prodigal son who may just be the most loyal of all the children.
The real star of the film, however, is Chishu Ryu as the grandfather Shukichi. With just a nod or a look, he conveys more emotions than could ever be expressed in words. He plays a sympathetic, caring, world-weary old man, one of the most touching and tragic characters in cinematic history.
I guarantee you he will break your heart with his haunting gaze near the end of the film. Foreign cinema is so often overlooked, but in my opinion, Ryu gives one of the greatest performances in a tragic film role ever. And his performances is all the more brilliant when he does nothing at all.

...

Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story is one of the finest, saddest films ever made. It is Ozu's magnum opus, a socially relevant look on family values, love, loss, and old age. Without contrived emotion or cheap sentimentality, the cast will break your heart, and Ozu, with his immaculate framing and perfect editing, will astound your senses. Tokyo Story is that rare film for the contemplative viewer; one that will excite your eyes and your heart. A film you will never forget.

5 Stars! Highly Recommended!
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2006
I saw this film when I was really young. I was told that it's a classic, and while I was respectful in my opinion about it, I never really got it. Having aged a bit, and opening my eyes even more to the world, I saw this film again, and then it hit me on how powerful, sad, and truthful it really is. It's done with so much real emotion, sadness, and subtlety that it doesn't really hit you until the film is over. Even thinking about it now makes me sad because it's filled with truth, that truth you know exists and can't get away from. You see what the children do with their parents, and you say to yourself "I won't do that", but you end up doing it anyway, not because you're an evil person, but because it's just time in the cycle of life for that to happen. Ozu was as great as any of the auteurs, like Kurosawa and Mizoguchi. It was such a shame that he died at 60, a very young age for a great artist. As artists age, they get better, their visions deepen. I am saddened that Ozu was taken from us at such an early age, but his work will always remain with us. Thank you, Mr. Ozu...
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I saw this movie several years ago with some 100% Japanese girlfriends who had never been to Japan, and rented this tape to prepare their 1st visit w/their Japanese family in Japan. I am only half Japanese, but spent the first 8 years of my life there and return quite frequently. I don't think there is another movie out there that can really flood my eyes. The director's narrative and cinematography to this story is so precise and poignant about families, universally, is what makes it such a High rated classic. The children grow up, move away from their family in the countryside and forget about their parents, even when they come to visit. Busy and tirelessly uncontent with their own lives in Tokyo, hiding their lack of success in the big city, the "children" never see the true blessing to their existence and the "joy" of family. The parents realize they raised a bunch of selfish children who really don't care much about them and decide to maybe return home. There is one character who has lost her parents and is more than willing to take the visiting parents around. The children are striving for other "material" happiness, yet the very thing that could root them is what they avoid, family.
Around the world I have seen the happiest families, 3 generations, under one roof. Somehow when families depart and move it's easy to forget and avoid and eventually isolate. This movie reminds me of my family life in Japan, the honesty of the charcters and actions and non-actions had me sobbing the whole way through. This movie transcends all languages and families as these emotions are the human condition. Oddly enough, my Japanese-American friends were confused by how emotional this movie made me. Sadly, I really felt their family value: detatched. This movie is a great reminder to respect your family, no matter what. Their time is not forever, and neither is yours.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2007
As someone who works with the elderly I see the sad truth of Tokyo Monogatari played out over and over and over again on a daily basis. Director Ozu tells us in a raw and naked way what is truly a heart breaking story, the stark reality of parent/child relationships through generational life cycles and the gaps that are created. But he tells it in a non apologetic or biased voice. It is what it is, good or bad; it's part of the human condition.

It's the story of an elderly couple who go to visit with their children, whom they rarely see, but find that the children are too busy to be with them making all kinds of unimportant excuses as to why. While this story is age old and relevant, even more so more than 50 years later, Ozu doesn't go for dramatic tactics to rip at our hearts, but in typical Japanese fashion he says so much with restrained expression and simplistic language. Every one, except for the daughter who openly shows her irritation at having to deal with her parents, is smiling all the time, even though their eyes and body language tell a different story. We feel uncomfortable as we watch them all sitting around trying to make polite conversation and not knowing really how to be.

Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama play the elderly father and mother so well that we cannot understand how the children cannot bring themselves to sacrifice even a small amount of time to be with them, much less revere them. This film does make us question our own beliefs and actions in how we treat our elders and also how we only briefly reflect on what's important only after it's too late. However, Ozu manages to draw our attention to all sides of the story and we can see that familial relationships are more complex than just the black and white of we should respect our elders or love our children no matter how they turn out, or we are evil, bad people.

The one bright spot in this whole film, and one that gives us all hope that there are truly good, decent people out there in the universe who do the right thing no matter what cost to themselves is the daughter-in-law, who is so beautifully played by Setsuko Hara. And she truly loves the parents even though they are not her blood relatives, while feeling guilty for slowly forgetting their dead son, her husband.

Bottom line, this is a very poignant and sadly beautiful film that touches the heart deeply on so many levels and it's worth watching for the simple, yet intense, portrayal of it all.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2002
Tokyo Story is a movie that can be understood and loved by people everywhere because its theme is so universal. Kids grow up and neglect their parents. Sadly, the children often don't come to this realization until it's too late. In the movie, the youngest son expresses his guilt during his mother's funeral when he says we should be kind to our parents while they are alive, because filial piety cannot reach beyond the grave. But I don't think Ozu is condemning children. He's just pointing out that this is the way life is. The character Noriko poignantly states this, later in the movie.
Just a quick note about the famous lines spoken near the end of the film. The English subtitles give the spirit of the Japanese. But what Kyoko actually says to Noriko is, "Iya ne yononaka te" (The world is disgusting, isn't it?). Noriko responds by saying, "So, iya na koto bakari" (That's right, there are only disgusting things). Noriko can smile when she says this because she has come to accept life for what it is.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
I think this movie is amazing for reasons I was not expecting. I had heard of Yasujiro Ozu's "Tokyo Story" for several years but never had an opportunity to see it until Criterion resuscitated it as part of their DVD collection. Over fifty years old, this wondrous 1953 film resonates just as deeply today. Those outside Japan rarely get to see a Japanese film classic that doesn't involve samurai warriors in medieval battles. This one, however, is a subtly observed family drama set in post-WWII Japan, and it is the quietude and lack of pretense of Ozu's filmmaking style that makes this among the most moving of films. The plot centers on Shukishi and Tomi, an elderly couple, who traverse the country from their southern fishing village of Onomichi to visit their adult children, daughter Shige and son Koichi, in Tokyo. Leading their own busy lives, the children realize their obligation to entertain them and pack them off to Atami, a nearby resort targeted to weekend revelers. Returning to Tokyo unexpectedly, Tomi visits their kindly daughter-in-law, Noriko, the widow of second son Shoji, while Shukishi gets drunk with some old companions.

The old couple realizes they have become a burden to their children and decide to return to Onomichi. They also have a younger daughter Kyoko, a schoolteacher who lives with them, and younger son Keizo works for the train company in Osaka. By now the children, except for Kyoko and the dutiful Noriko, have given up on their parents, even when Tomi takes ill in Osaka on the way back home. From this seemingly convoluted, trivial-sounding storyline, fraught with soap opera possibilities, Ozu has fashioned a heartfelt and ultimately ironic film that focuses on the details in people's lives rather than a single dramatic situation. What fascinates me about Ozu's idiosyncratic style is how he relies on insinuation to carry his story forward. In fact, some of the more critical events happen off-camera because Ozu's simple, penetrating observations of these characters' lives remain powerfully insightful without being contrived. Ozu scholar David Desser, who provides insightful commentary on the alternate audio track, explains this concept as "narrative ellipses", Ozu's singularly effective means of providing emotional continuity to a story without providing all the predictable detail in between.

Ozu also positions his camera low throughout his film to replicate the perspective of someone sitting on a tatami mat. It adds significantly to the humanity he evokes. There are no melodramatic confrontations among the characters, no masochistic showboating, and the dialogue is deceptively casual, as even the most off-hand remark bears weight into the story. The film condemns no one and its sense of inevitability carries with it only certain resigned sadness. What amazes me most is how the ending is so cathartic because the characters feel so real to me, not because there are manipulative plot developments, even death, which force me to feel for them. I just love the performances, as they have a neo-realism that makes them all the more affecting. Chishu Ryu and Chieko Higashiyama are wonderfully authentic as Shukishi and Tomi, perfectly conveying the resignation they feel about their lives and their children without slipping into cheap sentimentality. Higashiyama effortlessly displays the sunny demeanor of a grandmother, so when sadness does take over in her life, it becomes all the more haunting.

In particular, she has a beautiful scene where Tomi looks forlornly at her grandchild wondering what he will be when he grows up and whether she will live to see what happens. Even more heartbreaking is the scene where Shukishi and Tomi sit in Ueno Park realizing their children have no time for them and are resigned to the fact that they need to find a place to sleep for the night. The closest the film has to a villain is Shige, portrayed fearlessly by Haruko Sugimura, who is able to show respect, pettiness and conniving in a realistically mercurial fashion. Watch her as she complains about the expensive cakes her husband bought for her parents (as she selfishly eats them herself) or how she finagles Koichi to co-finance the trip to Atami or how she shows her frustration when her parents come home early from the spa. So Yamamura (familiar to later Western audiences as Admiral Yamamoto in Tora! Tora! Tora!) displays the right amount of indifference as Koichi, and Kyoko Kagawa has a few sharp lines toward the end of the film as the disappointed Kyoko.

However, the best performance comes from the legendary Setsuko Hara, a luminous actress whose beauty and sensitivity remind me of Olivia de Havilland during the same era. As Noriko, she is breathtaking in showing her character's modesty, her unforced generosity in spite of her downscale status and her constant smile as a mask for her pain. She has a number of deeply affecting moments, for instance, when Noriko explains to Shukishi and Tomi how she misses her husband, even though it is implied he was a brutalizing alcoholic; or the touching goodbye to Kyoko; or her pained embarrassment over the high esteem that Shukishi holds for her kindness. Don't expect fireworks or any shocking moments, just a powerfully emotional film in spite of its seemingly modest approach. The two-disc DVD set has the commentary from Desser on the first disc, as well as the trailer. On the second disc, there are two excellent documentaries. One is a comprehensive 1983, two-hour feature focused on Ozu's life and career, and the second is a 40-minute tribute from several international movie directors.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2013
Like many great pictures, this work is not about just one thing. If there is a central theme, then that would be a story of a family coping with change. The plot? A retired couple travel far to visit their grown children in Tokyo, but only their daughter-in-law is happy to see them. Now then, I love the quiet moments in the first act. Mundane things such as packing bags for a trip and sweeping the floor at a beauty salon become gentle poetry. But soon, something extraordinary happens. Layer after layer is pulled away to reveal one unpleasant truth after another. The elderly couple is sad to discover that their visit is an inconvenience to their own flesh and blood. By the time the picture ends, the audience is left with much to ponder. When do children cease to be obligated to their parents? For that matter, when do parents cease to be obligated to their children? Is loneliness the only thing to look forward to in old age? What impact does remarrying have on one’s relationships? That said, “Tokyo Story” is a beautiful snapshot of a family at an important juncture in time captured with honesty and authenticity.
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