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TitleOzu's Tokyo Story (Cambridge Film Handbooks)
ISBN 139780521482042
CategoryArts - Film
File Size23.1 MB
Total Pages188
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Ozu's Tokyo Story is generally regarded as one of the finest films
ever made. Universal in its appeal, it is also considered particu-
larly Japanese. Exploring its universality and cultural specificity,
this collection of specially commissioned essays demonstrates
the multiple planes on which the film can be appreciated. The
introduction outlines Ozu's career both as a contract director of
a major studio and as a singular figure in Japanese film history,
and also analyzes the director's cinematic style, particularly his
narrative strategies and spatial compositions. The other essays
examine Ozu's cinema in relation to Hollywood filmmaking;
discuss his work with respect to Japanese tradition, situating the
film within Japanese artistic modes, religious systems and be-
liefs, and sociocultural and familial formations; and analyze the
ways in which Ozu has been misunderstood by Western critics.

Page 94


Edward Yang spent ten years in the United States before making
his first film. Whatever else it is, Third World filmmaking is
definitely not uniform. And while it is problematic to call Japan
a Third World country, it is not going too far, I think, to charac-
terize Tokyo in the early 1950s as ''developing/' and indeed well
into the "singleminded modernization" mentioned by Kojiro in
the epigraph.

Unlike the other directors just mentioned, Ozu enjoyed a
position in Shochiku Studios that was not only secure, but cen-
tral, and the consistency of his style and his quality gave him
popularity as well as prestige. Ozu also considered himself a
native Tokyoite ("Edokko," child of Edo), giving him an insider's
vantage on the cinematic inscription of that city. The specific
maternal associations of Ozu's native Tokyo, as well as Ozu's
specific adjustments of Tokyo time-space, permit an accounting
of the costs with which the city characters purchase their Tokyo
affiliation. Tokyo Story shows an achievement of city identifica-
tion through an exchange of older ties inherited from parents
for affiliations of expediency and mutual interest. These new
metropolitan affiliations are practical and probably necessary
but (according to the viewpoint of real parents from the village)
illusory. In the end, the story indeed belongs to Tokyo, but it is
a Pyrrhic victory. We will see how this victory is achieved
through the shuffling of kinship roles and the dilation of time
in Tokyo Story. The concluding section discusses these technical
tricks in light of Tokyo's - and Edo's - historical evolution,
ending with an argument about Ozu's "filial" style.


In many of Ozu's films there is an exchange or reversal
of roles, most often between generations of a family. This moti-
vates characters to rise above individual inclinations and ap-
preciate their roles from a familial perspective. It also furthers
the idea that individuals are nodes, or kernels, in some larger
organic kinship entity. In Tokyo Story, there is a certain commu-

Page 95


tability between the roles of daughter, mother, and widow be-
cause each character takes on aspects of each role, like a game of
musical chairs. Noriko (Hara Setsuko), the widow, holds the key
to this game because she, unlike the mother and the daughter,
recognizes the pattern and her movement within it. Toward the
end of the film, when the eldest daughter, Shige, is about to go
and prepare to visit her critically ill mother in Onomichi, she
does a double-take. She tells her brother Koichi to meet her at
the usual place in Tokyo station, then briskly moves out the
doorway and starts to go out. But then she stops and turns, as if
to say, "Come to think of i t . . . " and comes back to the same
place where she was just now speaking to Koichi. She is about to
call out to him, but abruptly she turns back, steps down into the
genkan (entrance), and goes out the door. End of scene.

Why does she take her leave, then come back in, and finally
turn around and complete her exit? What did the lady forget?
When she first tries to leave, she wonders whether to bring black
funeral clothes on the trip and adds, with a smile, "Let's just
hope that we won't have to use them." With characteristic effi-
ciency, Shige has ensured that all possibilities are covered. She
has already established, with Koichi's sympathy, how busy she is
and how troublesome this trip will be to her business as a hair-
dresser. Always looking ahead, she has foreseen the worst possi-
ble outcome and, visibly brightening, resolves not to be left
unprepared. She has also uttered the obligatory expressions of
worry over her mother's health.

But she has also remembered her mother's words at the sta-
tion when seeing her parents off. Citing the great distance be-
tween Tokyo and Onomichi, her mother tells the Tokyo children
not to worry if anything should happen to her. They needn't
come all the way to Onomichi. In response, Shige had chided
her: "Don't say such things; this isn't a final farewell!" With
Kyoko's ominous telegram now in hand she has recalled, come
to think of it, that it must have been a premonition. Perhaps the
realization that this could actually happen, and may not be
merely the superstition of an old country woman, is what gives

Page 187

172 Index

Flavor of Green Tea over Rice, The,

Floating Weeds, 62, 68, 119, 121,
122, 127

Ford, John, 127
French New Wave, 3
furusato (hometown), 67, 96

Gate of Hell, 3

Hakuchu, see Idiot, The
Hanare goze Orin, see Banished

Hen in the Wind, A, 123
Higanbana, see Equinox Flower
Hijosen no onna, see Dragnet Girl
Hiroshige, 57
Hitori musuko, see Only Son, The
Hogaraka ni ayume, see Walk

Hou Hsiao-hsien, 78

/ Graduated, But. . ., 66, 96
/ Was Bom but... , 96
Idiot, The, 120
Inagaki Hiroshi, 3

Jigokumon, see Gate of Hell

kabuki, 60
Kawabata Yasunori, 94
Kaze no naka no mendori, see Hen

in the Wind, A
Kido Shiro, 26
kiko, see travel literature
Kinugasa Teinosuke, 3
Kohayaga ke no aki, see End of Sum-

mer, The
Kuleshov, Lev, 17
Kurosawa Akira, 63,120,127,128

Ladri di biciclette, see Bicycle

Last Laugh, The, 44
Late Autumn, 66, 98, 120, 125,

Late Spring, 6, 66, 98, 102, 114,

Life ofOharu, The, 62

ma, 22, 112, 114, 115
Man with a Movie Camera, 77
Manhattan, 77
Manila in the Claws of Neon, 78
matatabi mono, 60
McDonald, Keiko, 48
meisho-e, 22, 57
Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail,

The, 63
michiyuki, 59
Mizoguchi Kenji, 2, 42, 62, 63,

120, 127, 128
mono no aware, 47, 121
mu, 22, 101-2, 109, 110, 115
Murnau, F. W., 44, 78
Mystery Train, 63

Narayama bushi-ko, see Ballad of
Narayama, The

Noda Kogo, 20, 21, 26, 49, 95
noh theater, 59-60, 69, 106
Nora inu, see Stray Dog

Ochazuke no aji, see Flavor of
Green Tea over Rice, The

Ohayo, 96, 120
Only Son, The, 64, 66
Otoko wa tsurai yo, see Tora-san

Paris qui dort, 77
Passing Fancy, 87

Ray, Satyajit, 78
Rayns, Tony, 20, 21, 37
Renoir, Jean, 127

Page 188

index 173

Richie, Donald, 4, 65, 66, 67,
102, 118, 119, 121

Saikaku ichidai onna, see Life of
Oharu, The

Samma no aji, see Autumn After-
noon, An

Sato Tadao, 65, 95
Schrader, Paul, 4, 10, 48, 65, 106,

109, 121
Shank's Mare, 56, 93, 94
Shindo Kaneto, 62
Shinju ten no Amijima, see Double

Shinoda Masahiro, 62, 63, 64-5
shomin-geki, 26, 34, 43
Soshun, see Early Spring
Solitary Travels ofChikuzan, The,

Story of Floating Weeds, A, 62, 87
Story of the Last Chrysanthemum,

Straits of Love and Hate, The, 62
Stray Dog, 120
Sunrise, 44, 78

Taki no shiraito, see White Threads
of the Cascades

Tarkovsky, Andrei, 72

There Was a Father, 95, 102
Toda-ke no kyodai, see Brothers and

Sisters of the Toda Family
Tora no O o fumu otokotachi, see

Men Who Tread on the Tiger's
Tail, The

Tora-san, 50, 56, 61, 94
travel literature, 22, 55-6

Ugetsu, 2
Ukigusa, see Floating Weeds
Ukigusa monogatari, see Story of

Floating Weeds, A
Umarete wa mita keredo, see I Was

Born, But. . .

Vertov, Dziga, 77

Walk Cheerfully, 94
White Threads of the Cascades,

Wizard of Oz, The, 107

Yang, Edward, 78, 79

Zangiku monogatari, see Story of
the Last Chrysanthemum

Zen, 4, 10, 22, 101, 109, 114, 115

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