Friday, August 18, 2017

Tokyo Twilight




Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Tokyo Twilight is the story of two sisters who reunite with their mother after she had abandoned them when they were children as they both deal with their own lives. The film is a look into the life of a family as they cope with this sudden reunion as well as changes in their lives. Starring Setsuko Hara, Ineko Arima, Chishu Ryu, Isuzu Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara, Nobuo Nakamura, and Haruko Sugimura. Tokyo Twilight is an evocative and touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film follows the life of a banker in Tokyo who has two adult daughters as the eldest had just moved in with him with her two-year-old daughter due to her unhappy marriage where she and her younger sister learn that their mother has returned to Tokyo having been presumed dead for years. It’s a family drama that explores a family life that goes into chaos though there are several things the two women in the family are both dealing with as the eldest sister in Takako (Setsuko Hara) is taking care of things at her father’s home while her father Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) continues to work at the bank as he is dealing with the death of a colleague. The script by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda also explores the private pain that Takako’s younger sister Akiko (Ineko Arima) is dealing with as she is pregnant as her college boyfriend Kenji (Masami Taura) wants nothing to do with her.

During a search to find Kenji, she goes to a mahjong parlor that is run by a woman name Kisako (Isuzu Yamada) where she claims to know Akiko as she doesn’t tell her that she’s her mother. When Shukichi and Takako invite Shukichi’s sister Shigeko (Haruko Sugimura) that she saw Kisako as Takako learned about what Akiko had been doing though she is unaware of Akiko’s pregnancy. The screenplay would show this meeting between Takako and Kisako as it is filled with tension with the former displaying some resentment over what Kisako had done. Yet, it would set the stage for the emotional journey that Akiko would endure not just her own pregnancy but also revelations about the woman at the mahjong parlor she met.

Ozu’s direction is understated as well as being simple in terms of the compositions he creates and the need to delve into anything stylistic. Shot on location in Tokyo, Ozu would devoid himself of camera movements for the film including no tracking shots or anything of movement. Instead, he just aims a simple static shot to play into the image that he presents where he would use some wide shots for some of the locations in and around Tokyo. Yet, much of what Ozu shoots is with medium shots for much of the film as there’s very little close-ups in order to capture the intimacy and interaction between the characters. Much of is to not dwell too much into the melodrama as it would increase by the film’s third act as it relates to the Takako, Akiko, and Kisako. Ozu would maintain his simple approach to visuals as well as know where to create some offbeat shifts in the story that would seem abrupt but also play into the drama. Especially into what would happen as Ozu is aware of the bleakness that is prevalent in the story but is also aware that life has to continue. Overall, Ozu crafts an intoxicating yet tender film about two women dealing with the re-emergence of their estranged mother.

Cinematographer Yuhara Atsuda does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to capture the beauty of some of the daytime exteriors in Tokyo as well as use some lighting for the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with very little elements of style for something more direct. Art director Tatsuo Hamada does fantastic work with the look of the home of Shukichi as well as the mahjong parlor that Kisako runs. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo is terrific for being very simple and natural without the need to embellish as it very understated and to-the-point. The film’s music by Takanobu Saito is amazing for its orchestral-based score that feature some somber string arrangements to play into the drama while the music also feature some traditional Japanese music and contemporary music played on location.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Seiji Miyaguchi as a police officer, Kamatari Fujiwara as a noodle shop owner who lets Akiko drink at his restaurant during the third act, Kinzo Shin as Takako’s estranged husband who visits Shukichi early in the film, Nobuo Nakamura as Kisako’s new husband Sakae Soma, Masami Taura as Akiko’s cruel college boyfriend Kenji, and Haruko Sugimura in a wonderful performance as Shukichi’s sister Shigeko who would tell her brother and niece in her encounter with Kisako. Isuzu Yamada is fantastic as Kisako as Shukichi’s estranged ex-wife Kisako as a woman who has re-emerged in Tokyo with a new life as she recognizes Akiko though doesn’t tell her who she really is as it’s an understated performance that shows a woman trying to start over.

Chishu Ryu is excellent as Shukichi as a banker who is dealing with the death of his family as well as Akiko’s late arrivals at his home wondering what is happening with his family. Ineko Arima is brilliant as Akiko as a young woman trying to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and a troubled relationship with her boyfriend as well as the revelation about the woman she met at a mahjong parlor. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a radiant performance as Takako as a woman who is separated from her husband as she’s trying to run her father’s house and take care of her two-year old daughter while learning about the re-appearance of her mother as she tries to make sure Akiko doesn’t get herself into any trouble as well as getting her mother to not see Akiko ever again.

Tokyo Twilight is an incredible film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, a compelling story, evocative visuals, and a somber music score, the film is definitely one of Ozu’s finest films in its exploration of family and middle-class life. Especially as it play into two women dealing with the unexpected return of their estranged mother whom they had believed had died. In the end, Tokyo Twilight is a sensational film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – (Passing Fancy) – (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) – (An Autumn Afternoon)

© thevoid99 2017

6 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

I haven't heard of this one. Sadly, my knowledge of Ozu is pretty much zilch. I gotta get out (of my comfort zone) more.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-Ozu is a filmmaker that is a must for any film buff. Notably as he's known for someone that is about avoiding a sense of style with much of his revered work. Especially in how he frames a shot and never goes for any kind of camera movements. I'd suggest Tokyo Story as the best place to start. It's still my favorite film of his.

vinnieh said...

My exposure to Ozu is pretty limited. But your work has inspired me to get my ass in gear.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-Everyone who loves film should see at least one Ozu film. I'd start with Tokyo Story.

vinnieh said...

Thanks for the recommendation, my friend.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-You're welcome. If I can get someone to watch an Ozu film, then I know I'm doing my job.