Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating:
JAPANESE film-maker, Yasujiro Ozu's classic story of generational
estrangement, first released in 1953, has been digitally re-mastered
and re-released for your contemplation and pleasure.
Tomi and Suchiki leave their rural idyll of Ochinku to pay a
visit their son, (Koichi), and daughter, (Shige), in post-war
It is a trip they have been looking forward to for years, but,
unfortunately, things don't turn out as planned and rather than
being welcomed into the hearts and homes of their offspring, Tomi
and Suchiki, after a brief stay at Koichi's home - where they
are made to feel unwelcome, are packed off to a health spa, which
is totally unsuited to their needs, being as it caters mainly
for people at least 40 years younger than themselves.
With weary resignation, and the realisation that their children
are not the kind caring-sharing people they hoped they would turn
out to be, Tomi and Suchiki leave the spa early and return to
But their absence has not made their children's' hearts grow
any fonder; Shige chides them for returning too soon and, once
again, they are packed off to stay elsewhere.
For Tomi, that means a night with the kindly Noriko, the widow
of their recently deceased second son, and for Suchiki, a night
on the town with his old drinking cronies.
The day after, they head back to the country but on the journey
home Tomi falls seriously ill. How will her children react now,
when she needs them most?
Speaking about his technique, Ozu said that his job as director
was to encourage his actors to convey humanness.
He does this by treating the film almost as if it were a documentary
- the dialogue often verges on the banal, the acting is so understated
that it is almost non-existent, and the pace of the movie is so
leisurely that at times it becomes irritating.
However, this lack of artifice and dynamism is amply compensated
for by the skill and precision with which the director fleshes
out his flawed characters.
But, perhaps, the most striking aspect of the film, for Western
viewers at least, is the clinical portrayal of Japanese family
life at that time. In place of hugs and kisses, we get bows and
respectful apologies, and in place of love we get duty.
Ultimately, though, what is exposed here is the a deep-rooted
fatalism of the Japanese psyche - an acceptance that things are
simply the way they were destined to be and whatever befalls us
in life, however terrible, should be accepted with grace and dignity.
We could all learn something from that.