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Ozu’s “Tokyo Story”

Hara and Ryu

Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 Tokyo Story is a quiet, moving film about an essential theme of life: change. It’s not to be missed.

Chishu Ryu, Ozu’s iconic actor, plays an elderly father who travels from the countryside to Tokyo with his wife to visit their grown children. Chishu Ryu should serve as an example in acting classes–he conveys benevolence and humanity with mere nods, with grunted assents, with barely perceptible smiles. The beautiful and gracious Setsuko Hara plays his daughter. Ozu’s actors subtly express a range of human emotion without the crude mugging we often see in American acting.

Often the emotions are sad. The Roman poet Vergil used an expression I like: lacrimae rerum, or the tears of things. The phrase expresses the melancholy of life, the grief of loss, the disappointment we encounter in small things. Ozu is a master at conveying lacrimae rerum. Because we can identify so closely with these sorrows, and they are conveyed in such a humane and compassionate way, and the film itself is so gentle and beautiful, it’s not depressing, but poignant and real.

As John keeps pointing out, filmmakers in a recent poll chose Tokyo Story as Number One, the best film ever made. You don’t want to miss the best film ever made, showing at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque at 6:55 pm on Saturday, October 27, and 3:30 pm on Sunday, the 28th.

In addition, the AIDS documentary We Were Here looks powerful. This film, shown in conjunction with Ensemble Theater’s production of Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart, chronicles the beginning of the epidemic as seen through the eyes of gay men in San Francisco. (Shows Thursday, October 25, at 6:45 pm, and Friday, October 26, at 7:30 pm.)

As in weeks past, I recommend the Miyazaki film, the last of this series. If you’ve never seen a film by this director, you’re missing out. Princess Mononoke deals with ecological themes within a mythological story. (Saturday at 9:30 pm, and Sunday at 6:30 pm.)

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Kathy Ewing › Ozu Once Again on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    […] glance. It’s silent. It’s Japanese. It’s in black and white. But it’s made by the great Yasujiro Ozu, who directed Late Spring and Tokyo Story, among others, and it features a benshi. Chances are […]

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