Yasujiro Ozu Lindsay Anderson - Essay

Lindsay Anderson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Tokyo Story] is a film of relationships, a film about time, and how it affects human beings (particularly parents and children), and how we must reconcile ourselves to its working. Apart from the great fact of death, the incidents are all slight, and there is no chiaroscuro either in characterisation or mood. The tempo is all the way calm, leisurely, inevitable. There is only one element in the style which might seem at first to jar: the sequences do not fade into each other or dissolve. Every transition is effected by a cut, to some view of the new setting, a rooftop, a wall, a harbour vista, which then cuts again directly to the scene where the characters are going on with their living. But this is not jarring: on the contrary it is a way of conveying the essential unity of existence, of matter and spirit, which is intrinsic to the film's philosophy. (p. 132)

[What] we have here is a work that expresses in every image, and in the precise growth (as opposed to force) of its movement, a whole attitude to living, an attitude that comprehends, in the sense both of understanding and embracing, the painful necessities as well as the joys of existence. From our point of view this philosophy can be called, at least partly, humanistic; but this is by no means its essence. And it is here, I think, that even a reviewer as appreciative as John Gillett [see excerpt above] is in danger of missing the point. For with all its understanding and compassion, Tokyo Story is not a simple humanistic protest against the transience of life and the bitterness of experience. Specifically, in the "marvellous shot" (which it is) "of the tottering figure returning to the house and the mourners" it is not the "inner grief" of the old man that is being symbolised, but rather his wisdom and acceptance. (pp. 132, 160)

Even more than its humane virtues (I know one ought not to attempt the differentiation), it is the directness and clarity with which Tokyo Story reflects a whole philosophy of living that makes it so memorable an experience. (p. 160)

Lindsay Anderson, "Two Inches Off the Ground," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1957 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 27, No. 3, Winter, 1957–58, pp. 131-32, 160.∗