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Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari) (U)

Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: Two

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 Tokyo.

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 Tokyo.

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.

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