Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Tokyo Twlight

Yasujiro Ozu was one of the greats of the Japanese cinema, in a class with Kurosawa and Mizoguchi. Tokyo Story (1953) is the film that's probably best known to American audiences. His Tokyo Twilight (1957) currently completing a run at Film Forum is predicated on a series of narratives in which its characters are trapped. Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) is a banker. His son has died and he has two daughters. The eldest Takako (Setsuko Hara) is unhappily married to an alcoholic teacher, Numata (Kinzo Shin). The other Akiko (Ineko Arima) has become impregnated by her lackluster boyfriend. It's all tightly choreographed in an almost classically theatrical way with the window through which these characters are seen making their entrances looking also like a mirror. Tokyo Twilight is an essay in determinism a la Zola and Freud. The three narratives all compete in providing etiologies. Every time a character steps into a frame, they reiterate their story much the way patients on the couch often repeat the same narrative. In fact for a film made in Japan in the 50's Tokyo Twilight is curiously sophisticated from a psychological point of view. Takako for instance describes her husband as "neurotic." The potential reductiveness of the stories which often come off as melodramas is countered by the remarkable iconography and beauty of the cinematography. Is Tokyo Twilight a tragedy or is it ultimately about the stoic almost zen like acceptance of fate that many of Ozu's characters exhibit? One of the last scenes takes place in a train station. Kikuko (Isuzu Yamada), the elusive mother and proprietress of a mahjong parlor, who has exiled herself from her family, is again on the run. It's track 12. The numbers have no palpable meaning but they're also oddly definitive as the camera insistently returns back to them. It's both pointless and pointed like the nature of fate itself in Ozu's tightly defined universe. 

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