Best Movies Streaming Now #3: Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story
Japan, 1953
Directed by Yasujirô Ozu
Written by Yasujirô Ozu and Kôgo Noda
Available to stream on HuluPlus

IMG_9321Here are some words that accurately describe Tokyo Story: slow, pensive, patient, quiet, heartbreaking.

Oh, those words don’t make you eager to see it? Ok, let’s try a new set: enchanting, unyielding, wise, spiritual, REAL. Never have I seen a movie that felt truer than this masterpiece by Ozu.

The film, based upon Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), concerns an elderly Japanese couple who decide to visit their children in Tokyo, only to be given the collective cold shoulder. The children, so busy with their little lives, their jobs, their finances, eventually rid themselves of their inconvenience by shipping the pair off to a cheap resort.

The story is filled with sad moments, but somehow it never feels gloomy. There are moments of joy, especially in the moments with the couple. We observe, after all, that though their children show them little affection, there is a deep love between them. And we know how much they love their children. This is in essence a story of unrequited love, and one as honest as they come.

Nobody would ever call Ozu’s films exciting. His shots are mostly static, his pacing is deliberately slow, and his stories avoid sensationalism like the plague. Watching his movies you find yourself with plenty of time to think. That he provides this time is why he is considered by many critics (and movie junkies like me) to be the greatest director in history. Because there is plenty to think about, especially in a story as brilliant and tragic as Tokyo Story, it would be a kind of robbery to speed it up. The power is in the reflection. In the end, we end up pondering a lot about ourselves, our own relationships, and indeed our mortality.


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