The later films of Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu are marked by a striking uniformity of theme and form. These are stories of family life involving inevitable rupture, as things change, daughters marry, widowers grow old. Ozu films this bittersweet natural progression in his unmistakably controlled, minimal style, typified by head-on shots with the camera at the height of a seated observer. Tokyo Story is the best known (in the West) of this extraordinary cycle, a quietly tragic tale of an ageing couple coming to the painful realisation that their family no longer needs them.
Luminous Ozu regular Setsuko Hara plays daughter-in-law Noriko. Although not the same character as the Norikos she plays in Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer (1951), the films are considered a loose trilogy.
“A brilliant film on generational change, a society in transition and what it means to feel you are no longer needed. Ozu is always the filmmaker to turn to if you want to see how to do more with less – the filmmaker of the quotidian, melding economy and intensity to extraordinary effect.” Maria Delgado
“The evocative power of this film remains intact. The soft melancholy, the passage of time, the understanding of life as a spiritual adventure. All from the adventures and misadventures of a family. So simple, so complex.” Pedro Adrián Zuluaga
“A profound film. Ozu’s Zen style at its simplest and most sublime.” Patrick McGilligan
“A film full of wisdom, understanding and acceptance of life that never ceases to move and amaze. A beautiful heartbreak of a movie.” José Arroyo
“A psychologically healing film, a magically calming one.” Saleem Albeik
“This extraordinary study of ageing, mortality and family life (among other things) has that unforgettable moment: ‘Isn’t life disappointing?’ – ‘Yes’ (with a smile).” Geoff Andrew
“Its reputation for greatness is beyond deserved but canonisation also risks smothering its still live charge, pinning behind glass a work of art that still has the power to astonish, disrupt and shatter. Few works have ever been as capable of expressing the exquisite beauty and prevailing intolerability of living.” Eric Hynes
“Poignancy, regret and sadness come through all the keener by virtue of the restraint of performance, composition and editing.” Richard Dyer
“A film brimming with restrained emotion, which is unleashed through a level of unparalleled film craftsmanship. The model on which many of the world’s greatest films are based.” Akira Mizuta Lippit
“Ozu’s films always feel deceptively simple, despite their unusual framing and editing structures. It’s not just his mastery of cinema as a form that’s so impressive but the sheer humanity and compassion with which he manages to fill his films.” David Morrison
“A gently tragic film about the wheel turning.” Tom Ryan
“As you watch, it seems nothing is happening. When it’s over you realise you’ve just seen an encyclopedia of the human condition.” Charles Ramírez Berg