Thursday, November 7, 2019

NYC's Film Forum screens the seldom-seen-theatrically Ozu film, TOKYO TWILIGHT

I've only seen a half dozen or so films by the Japanese master Yasujirô Ozu, so the chance to view TOKYO TWILIGHT (from 1957) -- not to be confused with his more famous Tokyo Story (1953) -- seemed too good to miss. Being an Ozu film, it proved just that. Here's the stationery camera, along with the mid-level angles he so loved to use, and most important (it seems to TrustMovies at least) is that quiet pacing at a speed that allows (some might say forces) us to fully view and more deeply understand all that is happening and what this means to the participants.

For those raised on (and who never grew out of) car chases, gunshots and explosions, Ozu (shown at right) will no doubt rate a zero. But for those who want a look at Japanese culture and mores of the pre- and post WWII period, together with family tales that are as close to universal as you could want, this filmmaker is a keeper.

That said, Tokyo Twilight seems to me one of Ozu's lesser efforts by virtue of its a-little-to-close-to-soap-opera plotting, along with events that -- though they certainly apply within the framework of his themes and concerns -- do seem awfully coincidental and, well, a little too easy. Not for the characters to bear, mind you, but simply for good storytelling technique.

Still, the man was a master of casting and drawing wonderful performances out of those casts -- all of which is true here once again. A splendid Chishû Ryû (above) plays the banker father of two now-grown daughters, the mother of whom left early on in the marriage, for reasons we'll slowly learn.

The older of the girls (Setsuko Hara, above), pushed into a bad marriage by dad, is now trying to work her way into a better life, while the younger sibling (Ineko Arima, below) is the one with the problem that becomes the movie's main event upon which much of the plot hinges.

Then there is the older woman (Isuzu Yamada, below) with some connection to the family whose identity becomes rather obvious well before Ozu decides to fully confirm it to us. That said, the departure scene at the train station toward film's end is a kind of classic of gratification more than merely delayed.

There are so many lovely and moving moments and scenes in Tokyo Twilight that it almost seems churlish to complain. Yet by the final scene there have been enough soap-opera situations to give us pause. "A shock that great is seldom heard of," notes one character far into the film. This may have been somewhat true in Japan of the 1950s, but that sort of "shock" had been a staple of movies almost since their inception.

While Ozu has often taken what might initially seem like soap opera and raised it to art, here that art may be a little less apparent. Still, this is quite a lovely, poignant and fulfilling movie. And, really, who's going to complain about anything Ozu? (Except for those action lovers.)

Distributed via Janus Films, Tokyo Twilight -- in a new 4K DCP restoration -- opens for a week-long run tomorrow, Friday, November 8, at Film Forum in New York City. (Shown above is Masami Taura, handsome and sleazy, as younger sister's ratfink boyfriend.)

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