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grudlian.

Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story  

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  1. 1. Does Tokyo Story go in the space capsule?

    • This isn't a farewell.
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    • Even if anything should happen to us, don't come visit.
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Amy & Paul visit 1953’s Japanese generational drama Tokyo Story! They discuss the unique, still-life-inspired style of director Yasujiro Ozu, learn how the film became regarded as a masterwork by future generations of directors, and ask if the children of the central characters are actually villainous or just human. Plus: Which novelty single was huge in America when Tokyo Story was in theaters?

This is the second episode in our Kinspooled series on “effed up families”; next week’s film is Eve’s Bayou! Learn more about the show at unspooledpod.com follow us on Twitter @unspooled and Instagram @unspooledpod, and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify. You can also apply to be a guest on our upcoming game show Screen Test at unspooledpod@gmail.com!

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Paul not knowing of this film is just a reminder to me they did the wrong list for season 1. 

Sidenote, when Amy said, "they got all these directors together and they agreed that Tokyo Story was the best movie of all time," a more fair characterization is, in their most recent poll in 2012, that they do every decade (since 1952), in which they split out the directors from the critics since, I believe the 1992 poll, Tokyo Story received the most number of votes amongst directors, becoming the top film.

It's worth noting the top 7 of the critic's poll were Vertigo, Kane, Tokyo Story, The Rules of the Game, Sunrise, 2001, and The Searchers. So it's not like it's acclaim is unique to directors.

I only take the time to type that out, because I remember seeing a lot of misconceptions about how these polls/lists at the beginning of season one.

For the John Hughes connection, maybe because Home Alone is in this set, and I haven't seen Ohayo or "I was Born, But...", but vaguely knowing the premise of them, those were the ones I thought of.

One thing I noticed this time around with Tokyo Story is that the way it ends is possibly setting up the premise of Late Spring at the end. A daughter who seems devoted to her widowed father, living with him. And there's a lingering question of when she'll eventually marry and move out (with the concern of who will look after him).  A potential nice circular touch to the Noriko trilogy (though I was always unclear if Ozu intended it to be a thematic trilogy or if that's something we've attached afterwards. All those films that are early/mid/late season-name kind of confuses things in my mind.)

And I'm surprised they never used the term minimalism in describing it since that seemed to be the term Paul was reaching for. Something also relevant in Joan of Arc. Granted, I always think the power of minimalism comes from the contrast of everything else and in a cultural vacuum doesn't work quite as well (but no culture is ever truly in a vacuum, except in an archeological dig, maybe).

I will say, the didaticticism at the end always moves me, which is not what didaticticism usually does. Hey, yeah, we just showed you adult children that seem self-absorbed and neglectful of their parents, but I'm addressing you, the audience directly, don't judge them too harshly. It's what we all do. We all have their own lives. And it does recenter you to think about the shortcomings of the parents as well.

Just an overall great movie by not trying to be too much (this isn't The Ballad of Narayana).

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I want to point out that The Noriko Trilogy isn't truly a trilogy. Setsuko Hara plays a character named Noriko, but that's it. Noriko has a different last name, her father is different and she's living in different circumstances in all of them. The similarities in the trilogy run through almost all Ozu movies I've seen.

I'm really interested in what people think about this film if they've never seen an Ozu film before. This was the first I saw and it didn't do much for me. It wasn't until a couple more Ozu movies that he clicked with me.

Also, I'm pretty sure Paul is right about Jarmusch. I'm almost positive I've seen something where he said he liked Ozu but I don't know where I saw it. I was convinced he directed Tokyo-Ga which is on the Late Spring DVD but that was Wim Wenders.

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2 hours ago, grudlian. said:

I'm really interested in what people think about this film if they've never seen an Ozu film before. This was the first I saw and it didn't do much for me. It wasn't until a couple more Ozu movies that he clicked with me.

I'm not in that exact situation, but close. I have seen one of the Trilogy before, and really liked it a lot. But also Tokyo Story does little for me. I haven't listened to the ep yet, but I am curious how its been elevated so high in the pantheon.

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5 hours ago, grudlian. said:

I'm really interested in what people think about this film if they've never seen an Ozu film before. This was the first I saw and it didn't do much for me. It wasn't until a couple more Ozu movies that he clicked with me.

This was the first time I'd ever watched an Ozu film, and I feel like I went through this journey in real time throughout the movie. Found it a bit stilted and slow at first, but as it went along I became more engrossed and was won over.

The filmmaking style (described as "too Japanese" for Western audiences at times) reminded me of a passage in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, where he lays out the differences in storytelling between Eastern and Western comic artists.

http://bilalhafeez.com/the-comic-difference-between-western-and-eastern-mindsets/?

Japanese comics tend to devote more time to setting the scene or creating mood and aren't in as much of a rush to get to something "happening." American/European comics tend to focus a lot more on action, and on what will happen next. I saw similar things in Ozu. He lingers so much more on exterior shots of buildings, trains, power lines, drying laundry, etc., than you would ordinarily see in an American film (even a slower, more esoteric kind of American film). It can make you restless at first, but this way of shifting your focus to what is not happening over what is happening builds up over time.

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Yeah. This can make me feel restless as well. I was going to rewatch Tokyo Story this week and couldn't do it. I have to be in a specific mood or really ready to watch an Ozu film to watch one.

4 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I'm not in that exact situation, but close. I have seen one of the Trilogy before, and really liked it a lot. But also Tokyo Story does little for me. I haven't listened to the ep yet, but I am curious how its been elevated so high in the pantheon.

I don't know which one you watched, but I have liked Late Spring more than Tokyo Story. I also liked Good Morning more. It's a lot lighter.

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10 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

Yeah. This can make me feel restless as well. I was going to rewatch Tokyo Story this week and couldn't do it. I have to be in a specific mood or really ready to watch an Ozu film to watch one.

I don't know which one you watched, but I have liked Late Spring more than Tokyo Story. I also liked Good Morning more. It's a lot lighter.

I've seen Early Summer. Definitely want to jump into the trilogy fully now though, even though I wasn't fond of Tokyo Story.

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I binged the so-called Noriko trilogy a couple years ago in order of release, as my first exposure to Ozu. Like most Americans, I prefer Kurosawa and would rather one of his films were in the capsule.

Your note about assuming directors must be very liberal reminds me of this recent fact-check on "Mank", which assumes he was a supporter of Upton Sinclair despite all evidence to the contrary. Like most people, I haven't actually seen that, but I did find the distortion of history to make the protagonist a standin for modern attitudes in "Lost City of Z" to be particularly annoying.

AEI is the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank known more for things like advocating the invasion of Iraq. Not that I would dismiss out-of-hand people writing on more domestic matters. At any rate the quoted bit didn't actually indicate that Hughes had ever seen Tokyo Story or acknowledged Ozu as an influence.

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On 11/19/2020 at 2:18 PM, AlmostAGhost said:

I'm not in that exact situation, but close. I have seen one of the Trilogy before, and really liked it a lot. But also Tokyo Story does little for me. I haven't listened to the ep yet, but I am curious how its been elevated so high in the pantheon.

Since you went in not having a feel for why it's so acclaimed (or at least, not feeling it), I am curious if you took anything away from the episode on that front.

Discussions can sound very different when coming from a very different angle (I've seen the movie multiple times and it's grown on me each time. But it also started out fairly well with me on the first viewing - but also unburdened by my ignorance of any list ranking at the time).

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1 minute ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Since you went in not having a feel for why it's so acclaimed (or at least, not feeling it), I am curious if you took anything away from the episode on that front.

Discussions can sound very different when coming from a very different angle (I've seen the movie multiple times and it's grown on me each time. But it also started out fairly well with me on the first viewing - but also unburdened by my ignorance of any list ranking at the time).

hmm, honestly not really. Usually Paul & Amy are great at explaining things, but I still don't have a great sense of it. Some of the things they mentioned were cool, like the well-composed minimalistic shots, but I'm not clear how that's enough to elevate a movie even near the level of "best movie ever." And I never felt it was particularly artistic to look it either, so even with such detailed set-ups, what was the point?

I get that the director maybe has his own sort of cinematic language, and I think that's probably what I took away most of all -- that's probably why all those directors they mentioned picked it as #1 all-time? *shrug*

I will add, I felt a little like Paul & Amy (and even those directors) were a bit snobby in rising this up so high. A sort of "if you don't like this, you just don't get it or prefer Hollywood action" sort of angle. I'll definitely give it another try in time though, I can generally do dry or slow or minimal or foreign just fine. Just not this one! I haven't figured out why that is.

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2 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

nd I never felt it was particularly artistic to look it either, so even with such detailed set-ups, what was the point?

Like others, I'm someone who enjoyed the movie a lot on my first watch, for what that's worth.  But I did appreciate a lot more of the artistry after watching it with Criterion's commentary track by David Desser (it's a very dry, often intrusive commentary, but there's a ton of interesting information in it).  The sense I got is that Ozu set up his shots to have utility, both narratively and thematically, and thus perhaps aren't as jaw-droppingly showy as the "one perfect shot" aesthetic.  I think that there are some fantastic compositions in Tokyo Story, but they are used purposefully.

But while I did appreciate that aspect more on this commentary-supplemented rewatch, the thing that makes me love this movie is the universality, which paradoxically works with its specificity.  The period of history between 1945 and 1956 in Japan is unlike anything I have ever lived through, and I think that point in time is crucial to Tokyo Story, but as Paul and Amy talked about, the characters and their relationships feel completely universal.  But that's just why it worked for me, and I think it's reasonable for someone to see all that and just not have it connect with them.  I agree with you that it feels snobby to posit that everyone is supposed to love this or any other film once they unlock it correctly, but I do happen to really like this particular film.  I wouldn't put it at #1 in history though.

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