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Tokyo Story

As long as life goes on, relationships between parents and children will bring boundless joy and endless grief. 

Year: 1953 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 (Academy) 
Certificate: BBFC U Cert – Universal 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Yasujirô Ozu 
Starring: Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama, Sô Yamamura  
An image from Tokyo Story

Buy Tickets on the SU Website:
19:30 Thursday 17th February 2022

Review:

Once a decade, Sight & Sound magazine publishes a list of the 100 greatest-ever films according to critics, academics, distributors, and filmmakers. By all accounts, these polls are the most prestigious rankings one can find. In 2012, 358 directors offered their opinions, and the overall winner may seem surprising. The number one movie of all time, as voted by the artists themselves, was not a sweeping epic. It was not an abstract, experimental piece. It was not even necessarily a significant landmark in film history. Not Citizen Kane, not 2001: A Space Odyssey, not The Godfather. Instead, it was Tokyo Story (1953), a small-scale, patient, minimalist drama about children not lending enough attention to their parents. Its story could be summarised in one line, and much of the film merely consists of people talking in front of a static, low-angled camera. Even in its climactic moments, there are no dramatic confrontations, nor grand revelations, and perhaps this is partly the reason for its lasting acclaim: Tokyo Story is incredibly simple, yet quietly powerful in a manner few other films have captured before or since.

Yesujiro Ozu, the director, did not see much success during his lifetime. Like his peer Akira Kurosawa, he represented an older generation that became outdated once a constant stream of Godzilla movies saturated the market. Distributors thought Tokyo Story to be “too Japanese”, and thus it saw limited release internationally. They were wrong. The westernisation of post-war Tokyo is certainly an underlying theme, and knowledge of Japanese tradition and culture may help, but its fundamental spirit is one of family. Japanese or not, any viewer can relate to the process of growing up, gradually losing time to spend with one’s parents, in the futile assumption that it will be paid off some day. This lack of time is painted as an inescapable reality; no one is a villain in Tokyo Story, only victims to the course of life. It is not sentimental, yet universal in its emotional resonance. It is one of the greatest films ever made.

Chris Mantafounis

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Screenings of this film:

2021/2022 Spring Term (35mm)