Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura, Nobuo Nakamura, So Yamamura, Kuniko Miyake, Kyoko Kagawa, Eijrio Tono, Shiro Osaka, Zen Murase, Mitsuhiro Mori
Written by: Kogo Noda, Yasujiro Ozu
Directed by: Yasujiro Ozu
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 134
Date: 03/11/1953

Tokyo Story (1953)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Family Way

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Long considered one of the ten best films ever made, Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 masterpiece was the most gaping hole in my film knowledge, until now. Most Americans couldn't see it until the 1970s because Ozu was originally considered "too Japanese" for export. Now it's clear that he's one of the world's most universal filmmakers. In the film, an elderly couple visits their busy grown children in Tokyo and finds that they've become a burden. But when the mother returns home and falls ill, the children race to be by her side and bicker about who gets her things. The kindest character is a widowed daughter-in-law, who seems to understand the frailty of life.

Ozu gets straight to the emotional truth of the story without casting judgment or collapsing in to sentimentality; he understands all these characters and where they come from. His simple method of shooting is beautifully on display here: inventive cross-cutting, waist-high angles and lovely establishing shots of clotheslines and trains representing everyday life. Conspicuously absent are moving cameras, dissolves or anything tricky. Seeing Tokyo Story on the Castro's big screen could easily change your life.

DVD Details: I just can't recommend this Yasujiro Ozu masterpiece enough. The film alone -- about relationships between parents and grown children -- delves into such painful levels of beauty that it could change your life. But Criterion's double-disc set makes it even more worthy. Start with the stunning new black-and-white digital transfer. Then Ozu scholar David Desser provides a commentary track and critic David Bordwell contributes a written essay. The second disc includes the film's trailer, a two-hour documentary on the life and career of Ozu, plus a 40-minute tribute to the great Japanese filmmaker by eight other acclaimed international filmmakers including Paul Schrader, Claire Denis and Aki Kaurismaki.

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