Voted in Sight & Sound’s authoritative 2012 poll the third greatest film of all time (and topping the list among directors), Ozu Yasujiro’s sublime family drama is as relevant today as it has ever been, in a sparkling new restoration.
When elderly parents travel from their sleepy coastal town to visit their eldest children in Tokyo, life in the big city doesn’t leave much time for hosting the old folks. Mild disappointments gradually turn into stealth tragedy when the mother falls ill on the way home. Perhaps the most shocking thing about Tokyo Story is how completely recognisable the behaviours and attitudes are 60 years later, in an alien culture. Children and parents continue to grow apart; casual thoughtlessness can still cut like a knife, and regrets remain infinite.
Ozu nails every interaction with a rich emotional diversity, including moments of gentle humour. The zen-like simplicity of Ozu’s mature style rejected the norms of Hollywood filmmaking and invented its own sophisticated, flexible and extraordinarily expressive film grammar that was completely absorbing and emotionally direct.