Saturday, November 28, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
The great Setsuko Hara, director Yasujirô Ozu’s favorite leading lady, passed away today at the age of 95. In her honor, here is a repost of our review of Criterion's release of Tokyo Story from 2013.
Yasujirô Ozu’s Tokyo Story from 1953, now available in a superbly packaged Blu-ray edition from Criterion, is a film that subtly captures the dynamics of family life in ways that feel stunningly real. There are moments here of such immediacy and personal truth that it seems impossible for Tokyo Story to be a relic of a bygone age and culture. Yet, due to Ozu’s masterful - one could say otherworldly - powers of observation, this sixty year old glimpse into the unremarkable lives of the Hirayama family presents the human condition with a universality that still rings true in 2013.
Tokyo Story is the final installment of what film scholars call The Noriko Trilogy; three films Ozu made shortly after WWII that feature a female character named Noriko, played by the charismatic Setsuko Hara. However, the films are not narratively continuous and, in fact, Noriko is a different woman, with different circumstances and conflicts, in each picture. Yet the films are tied together by similar themes of quaint family traditions versus the forces of modernity that seek to undo those traditions. The people of Japan may have been traumatized by atom bombs, but in Ozu’s delicate vision, the corporate world and early forms of feminism have wrought the most enduring changes to his nation’s social fabric.
In Tokyo Story, we meet Shukishi and Tomi Hirayama (Chishû Ryû and Chieko Higashiyama), a long married couple in their sixties who live a quiet life in the small town of Onomichi. As the film opens, the pair are packing for a long train journey to Tokyo, where they will visit their adult children, who are now busy with careers and families of their own. This expository sequence, which Ozu plays largely for subtle laughs, is complete with a nosy neighbor and a good natured squabble over a missing cushion. But in between the giggles, Ozu manages to establish the Hirayama’s family history and, more importantly, their outsized expectations for this trip. Those expectations are rooted in societal traditions of generational reverence, but those traditions are fading rapidly as Japan’s younger generation rushes to catch up with the Twentieth Century.
Once in Tokyo, the elder Hirayamas get passed from son Koichi (Sô Yamamura), a doctor, to daughter Shige (Haruko Sugimura), a beauty salon owner, and back again in a game of musical guest rooms. Koichi and Shige have precious few moments to spare for their parents and their visits feature long, restless silences and brief, disinterested conversations. Shige even ships Mom and Pop off to a seaside resort for a few days, but the constant noise of swinging singles in full party mode makes it a hellish stay for the reserved Hirayamas. Once back in Tokyo and again left to his own devices, Shukishi meets up with some old drinking buddies and experiences the sweet oblivion of too much sake, much to the comical alarm of Shige, who leaves her father to sleep it off in a barber’s chair.
Up to this point, Tokyo Story could be considered a gentle, rather modest comedic look at manners and mores in contemporary Japan. However Ozu has much more profound messaging in store. When the Hirayamas visit Noriko (Setsuko Hara), wife of their son Shoji who went missing in the war and is presumed dead, they find a kindred spirit who understands the unspoken purpose of their journey. Throughout the film, Ozu has used Tomi’s brief, bittersweet mutterings as a foreshadow of Tokyo Story’s tragic and transformative final act. The rapid spinning away of one’s time on earth, especially as that time grows ever shorter, is brought from subtext to full blown narrative catalyst, and ultimately all the characters are called to account for their actions. As the Hirayama family reunites for one of life’s most challenging yet inevitable passages, Ozu creates rhythms and moments of such touching clarity Tokyo Story is transported into the rarified realm of the unforgettable.
Experts generally consider Tokyo Story is be Yasujirô Ozu’s overall best film - a task akin to picking out the most beautiful gem in bag of diamonds - and Criterion’s wonderful Blu-ray will augment that reputation. It is a film this reviewer has enjoyed several times over the years, with each screening bringing new and profound facets to the surface. The extraordinary chemistry among Ozu, Chishû Ryû and Setsuko Hara - also found in Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer (1951) - reaches its zenith here, delivering an impassioned plea for remembrance and respect. Tokyo Story is really humanity’s story, and a stinging indictment of the myopic selfishness common to all members of the family of man.
Monday, November 23, 2015
TCM celebrates this holiday month with a wide variety of film festivals to suit all tastes. With everything from Ma and Pa Kettle to Eric Rohmer in the mix, they'll be no airing of grievances this Festivus! My picks below. All times Eastern. Full schedule Here.
|The great Percy Kilbride and Marjorie Main in Ma and Pa Kettle.|
On the verge of eviction, the hillbilly family wins a slogan contest and moves into an automated home.
The hillbilly farmers win a contest and take off for New York City.
The hillbilly farmers take off in search of uranium.
The Ozark farmers try to clean up their act to help their son win a college scholarship.
A beautiful young woman stands trial for poisoning her lover.
BW-115 mins, CC,
|Sinatra does it his way in this TV special from 1965.|
Frank Sinatra performs many of his classics for a TV audience.
Dir: Dwight Hemion
A newlywed couple's honeymoon is disrupted by their friends' marital problems.
BW-111 mins, CC,
A juvenile court judge investigates the tragedy of marijuana addiction in this short film.
A liberal Japanese family pays for its opposition to World War II.
A schoolteacher struggles to imbue her students with a positive view of the world and their place in it, despite the fact that she knows of the oncoming war.
|Gregg Toland takes the director's chair for December 7th.|
After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. fights to survive the early days of World War II.
When her mother tries to end her closest friendship, a high school girl plots her murder.
In this short documentary, police officers are trained in the assistance and management of mentally ill and confused persons.
Dir: George C Stoney
In this short film, a drug dealer seduces a high-school student into drug addiction.
A young boy comes of age at Christmas in rural Quebec.
C-105 mins, Letterbox Format
|An early version of the iPhone in Babes in Toyland.|
The town miser plots to force Mary Quite Contrary to marry him.
A government researcher fights to survive when he's marooned in the Canadian wilderness.
C-105 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
Walt Disney's photographers capture the wildlife of the Arctic.
Donald and Goofy are trappers in Antarctica with different approaches.
Dir: Ben Sharpsteen
In search of his missing wife, a man uncovers a deadly motive for her behavior.
To escape a war between men and women, a young girl moves into a fantasy world.
BW-100 mins, Letterbox Format
|A Rohmer mini festival on the 20th|
A young man is snowed in with his best friend's amorous mistress.
A self-absorbed young man fights his attraction to a woman notorious for collecting men.
A young photographer fights to build her career while coping with her best friend's marriage.
C-88 mins, CC,
A young working woman in New York vies with her flighty roommate for a doctor's heart.
|DeNiro is electric in Mean Streets.|
A small-time hood must choose from among love, friendship and the chance to rise within the mob.
C-112 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A quarrelsome couple discovers their marriage isn't legal.
BW-95 mins, CC,
Newly arrived in Australia, a man discovers his childhood love is now an alcoholic.
C-117 mins, CC,
An acting student goes undercover to prove a singing star killed her husband.
BW-110 mins, CC,
A man's joking suggestion that he and a chance acquaintance trade murders turns deadly.
BW-101 mins, CC,
A straying husband frames his wife for the murder of the man he'd hired to kill her.
C-105 mins, CC,
A musician is mistaken for a vicious thief, with devastating results.
BW-105 mins, CC,
An advertising man is mistaken for a spy, triggering a deadly cross-country chase.
C-136 mins, CC,
|Recover from Christmas with classic Sci-Fi on the 27th.|
An alien demands that Earth's leaders choose between peace and destruction.
BW-92 mins, CC,
England's Henry II and his estranged queen battle over the choice of an heir.
C-134 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A widowed actress and her children suffer hardships when she mistakenly marries a conservative church leader.
C-189 mins, Letterbox Format
A giant octopus attacks San Francisco.
BW-79 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
A crashed spaceship unleashes a rapidly growing monster from Venus.
BW-83 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
Cowboys discover a lost world populated by dinosaurs.
C-95 mins, Letterbox Format
A rebellious caveman leaves his tribe in search of a better life.
C-100 mins, CC,
|Chicken riding is a popular sport on Mysterious Island.|
Escaped Civil War POWs end up on an island populated by giant animals.
C-101 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
Space invaders attack the nation's capital.
BW-84 mins, CC, Letterbox Format
Sinbad hunts for a roc's egg to save his love from an evil sorcerer.
C-88 mins, CC,
While running a hotel in Florida, three clowns get caught up in the search for stolen jewels.
|Say goodbye to 2015 with a Marx Brothers festival on New Years Eve.|
A group of zanies tries to save a pretty girl's sanitarium.
BW-109 mins, CC,
Three zanies turn an operatic performance into chaos in their efforts to promote their protege's romance with the leading lady.
BW-91 mins, CC,
Three zanies try to recover a stolen painting during a madcap house party.
BW-97 mins, CC,
Four stowaways get mixed up with gangsters while running riot on an ocean liner.
BW-78 mins, CC,
In an effort to beef up his school's football team, a college president mistakenly recruits two loonies.
BW-67 mins, CC,
When he's named dictator of Freedonia, a con artist declares war on the neighboring kingdom.
BW-69 mins, CC,