The Asian Reporter 19th Annual
Scholarship & Awards Banquet -
GENERATION GAP. The Northwest Film Center is presenting legendary Japanese director Yasujiro Ozuís seminal Noriko Trilogy this month. The films, which address the generational gaps in the Japanese family dynamic, are considered among the celebrated directorís finest. Tokyo Story (pictured), the final installment of the trilogy, screens July 10 and 11. (Photo courtesy of the Northwest Film Center)
From The Asian Reporter, V20, #19 (July 5, 2010), page 15.
Distance measured in years: Ozuís meditation on generational change and the meaning of family
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Produced by Takeshi Yamamoto
1953, 134 minutes
Screening July 10 and July 11 at the
Northwest Film Centerís Whitsell Auditorium
By Ian Blazina
The Asian Reporter
Opening with a scene of children walking to school and a train headed east through a neighborhood in Onomichi in southwestern Japan, Yasujiro Ozuís Tokyo Story unfolds a quiet family drama into a meditation on generational change, the vagaries of progress, and the meaning to us of those we love. Set in a period where Japan was being restored from the ashes of World War II and negotiating a new identity, the themes of Ozuís classic film remain particularly relevant in our increasingly frenetic world.
Two elderly parents (played by Chieko Higashiyama and ChishŻ RyŻ, who are featured prominently in many of Ozuís films) take a train eastbound to Tokyo ó a kind of dream vacation for many at the time ó to visit their children. Prior to departing, a neighbor remarks that the coupleís children have all turned out so well, becoming successful in the city.
As the film progresses, it becomes clear a heavy price has been paid for success: While the coupleís children are mostly deferential to their parents, they are busy in their rather ordinary lives and seem quite detached. Unable or unwilling to make time for their parents, they call on Noriko, the widow of their dead brother (played by Setsuko Hara, one of Japanís most admired actresses, who celebrated her 90th birthday this past June) to entertain their parents.
Throughout the story, it is Noriko rather than the parentsí own blood who shows real humanity toward the family.
Ozu unravels the story at his typically quiet, composed pace, using low camera angles and unmoving long takes to create a sense of intimacy within the family. Silent pauses and deflected questions carry weighty meaning and the minutiae of family dynamics are simultaneously personalized and abstracted to examinations of larger ideals. That the characters are portrayed so realistically makes the reflections all the more powerful.
Neither parents nor children are beyond reproach, a notion demonstrated by the elder daughterís scheming and the fatherís drinking. In one scene, where the father goes out boozing with old colleagues, the friends lament their children lost to war and also lost to post-war lives while a brassy military march plays in the background. This is not the world of neat, happy endings, but rather a world where life is frequently disappointing and sources of happiness are only fully appreciated when they are gone.
There is little that can be said of this outstanding film in such a short review that has not been discussed by film critics throughout the decades, who have frequently counted Tokyo Story among the best films ever made. Be sure to rearrange your schedule to see the film onscreen while it is in town.
Tokyo Story, the final installment of Yasujiro Ozuís Noriko Trilogy, screens on Saturday, July 10 at 8:30pm and Sunday, July 11 at 7:00pm. The first film of the trilogy, Late Spring, screens Friday, July 9 at 7:00pm and Sunday, July 11 at 2:00pm. The second film, Early Summer, plays Saturday, July 10 at 6:00pm and Sunday, July 11 at 4:30pm. All screenings take place at the Portland Art Museumís Whitsell Auditorium, located at 1219 S.W. Park Avenue in Portland. To learn more, call (503) 221-1156 or visit <www.nwfilm.org>.