Friday, August 11, 2017

Tokyo Chorus

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and screenplay by Komatsu Kitamura and Kogo Noda, Tokyo Chorus is the story of a working man hoping to get his pay in the chance to give his family a moment of happiness as he deals with the reality of his life. The film is an exploration into the look of the working class in Tokyo as it revolves the story of a man and others dealing with day-to-day life during the Great Depression. Starring Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo, Hideo Sugawara, Hideko Takamine, Tatsuo Saito, and Chouko Iida. Tokyo Chorus is a touching and engaging film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film follows a man who is fired from his job after turning down a bonus after learning that an older co-worker is fired prompting him to struggle in finding work and raise his family. It’s a film that explores life during the Great Depression in Tokyo as a man is trying to uphold some honor for those he work for as well as trying to do good for his family as he promises his son a bicycle. The film’s screenplay by Komatsu Kitamura and Kogo Noda doesn’t just explore a man dealing with unemployment but also the need to do what is right as he would wander around Tokyo trying to find work at a time when jobs were becoming scarce. The film does open in an unconventional manner as it revolves the protagonist Shinji Okajima (Tokihiko Okada) causing trouble as he is being disciplined by his teacher Omura (Tatsuo Saito). The narrative would fast-forward years later where Okajima is working for an insurance company as he is to receive his bonus but his actions would later lead to trouble as he puts the livelihood of his family at great risk.

Yasujiro Ozu’s direction is definitely simple in terms of the compositions he creates as there isn’t very much movement with the camera other than a few tracking shots and a zoom-out as much of it remains this simple static shot in either close-ups or medium shots. Ozu’s direction captures the life of middle-class Tokyo and nearby areas as it shows a world that is struggling with the Depression where a man in his prime tries to help a co-worker who is older than him. Ozu showcases these struggles with an air of realism and doesn’t go for any kind of visual style to play into this realism. Even in some of the interiors as he captures a family struggling to get by as one of the children is ill as Okajima’s wife Sugako (Emiko Yagumo) is forced to sell a cherished possession. It would all play into Okajima having to wander around Tokyo to find work as he would have to swallow his pride as he would finally get help from someone from his past who would show him the means to fight for what he wants. Overall, Ozu creates a compelling and heartfelt film about a man trying to find work during the Great Depression in Tokyo.

Cinematographer/editor Hideo Shigehara does excellent work with the film’s cinematography and editing as the photography is straightforward in its black-and-white look while the editing is also simple with straight cuts to play into the drama. Set decorators Minzo Kakuta, Tsunetaro Kawaski, Beijiro Tanaka, and Yonekazu Wakita do fantastic work with the look of the home that Okajima and his family live in as well as the office he worked at in the films’ first act. Costume designer Ko Saito does nice work with the costumes from the look of the kimonos as well as the clothes of Okajima as he tries to present himself to get a job. The film’s wonderful score by Donald Sosin from the 2008 release from the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse series is a jovial piano score that help play into some of the film’s humor but also provide the right tone for the dramatic moments.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Kanji Kawara as a doctor, Reiko Tani as Okajima’s boss who would fire him, Ken’ichi Miyajima as the boss’ secretary, Takeshi Samamoto as the elderly employee who would be fired, and Choko Iida as Omura’s wife. Hideo Sugawara and Hideko Takamine are terrific in their roles as Okajima’s children with the former as the son wanting a bike and the latter as the daughter who would get sick during the film’s second act. Emiko Yagumo is excellent as Okajima’s wife Sugako as a wife trying to understand what her husband is doing as well as cope with the severity of his unemployment. Tatsuo Saito is amazing as Omura as a teacher of Okajima in the film’s opening sequence who disciplines him in how to conduct oneself at the work place as well as be someone that would help Okajima regain his confidence. Finally, there’s Tokihiko Okada in a marvelous performance as Shinji Okajima as a man working for an insurance company who tries to defend the rights of a fired co-worker as well as do what he can to give his family a good life while finding a job during one of Japan’s most trying times in the Great Depression.

Tokyo Chorus is a remarkable film from Yasujiro Ozu. It’s a silent film that explore Japan during the Great Depression that is filled with bits of humor as well as drama that has a realness as well as something that is engaging to a wide audience about the struggles to provide for one’s family. In the end, Tokyo Chorus is an incredible film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – 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 - Tokyo Twilight – (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - The End of Summer – (An Autumn Afternoon)

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