Yasujiro Ozu: Three Melodramas
Early Spring (1956), Tokyo Twilight (1957) and Woman of Tokyo (1933)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: Two classics and one early curiosity from the Japanese master of quiet desperation Yasujiro Ozu, well restored by the BFI. A must for Ozu fans.
"How did she become like that? What can I do?" Yasujiro Ozu's regular actor of choice Chishu Ryu plays the quiet-mannered father who asks this to himself in front of one daughter, referring to the other has strayed from good in 1957's 'Tokyo Twilight'.
Muted desperation in normal characters is the hallmark of a good Ozu picture. As is family. In 'Tokyo Twilight', the long lost mother figure abandoned them all and will do further damage on her reappearance just as the fractured family struggles with the day-to-day.
Another film in BFI's triple set, 'Early Spring' deals with family tragedy and temptations to stray away from the fold. Solidarity seems forever tested as if the foundations of family life are mere veils.
The other film (1933's 'Woman of Tokyo') is an early example of Ozu developing his themes and calm style. It's also his first social issue film, signalling a wise move away from his earlier work in comedy. Ropier, it examines a sister and brother's dependant ties that are stretched when he learns of her working at a seedy cabaret bar to fund his studies.
Plotwise, it all sounds like a soap opera and in a way it is but it's of the very highest quality. The way the actors deliver the simple, believable lines (like the one that opens this review) is endearing and deeply personal. You have to invest a part of yourself in an Ozu film in order to be washed into - instead of away from - its slow pace and lack of action. This two-disc, three-film set from the BFI isn't the best place to begin (try their sublime 'Tokyo Story' Blu-ray) but it's a must for the fans.
Here's what you can expect in this set:
Three Melodramas by Yasujiro Ozu, released on 18 June, is the latest addition to the BFI’s DVD strand The Ozu Collection. Melodrama is a word rarely associated with the work of the master Japanese director, whose beautifully constructed films capture the poetry of everyday life. Spanning his career, these three films, Early Spring (1956), Tokyo Twilight (1957) and the rare silent Woman of Tokyo (1933), demonstrate the director’s ability to apply his exquisite style to darker themes.
Woman of Tokyo (Tokyo no onna)
Ozu’s silent Woman of Tokyo sees the director experimenting with the cutaways that were to become so associated with his later style. Chikako (Yoshiko Okada) works hard to pay for her brother Ryoichi’s (Ureo Egawa) college fees. When Ryoichi learns the true nature of this work disaster ensues. This tragic tale of misunderstood sacrifice features a new score by Ed Hughes.
Early Spring (Soshun)
Made just after his celebrated Tokyo Story, Ozu’s Early Spring tackles the problems of young salaried workers. Shoji (Ryu Ikebe) and his wife Masako, played by the multitalented Chikage Awashima (Late Spring), struggle to come to terms with a family tragedy. When the office flirt ‘Goldfish’ (Keiko Kishi) starts to interest Shoji, the couple’s fragile peace is severely threatened.
Japan / 1933 + 1957 / black and white / silent with optional score, Japanese intertitles and audio with English subtitles; Japanese, English subtitles / DVD 9 / 45 mins + 139 mins / Dolby digital 320kbps / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1
Tokyo Twilight (Tokyo Boshoku)
Abandoned by their mother when they were young, sisters Akiko (Ineko Arima) and Takako (Setsuko Hara) live with their father Shukichi (played by Ozu’s favourite actor Chishu Ryu). Each nurses her own personal sorrow but when Akiko falls into desperate trouble she turns away from her family. Ozu’s last film in black and white, Tokyo Twilight is a masterpiece of atmospheric chiaroscuro.
Japan / 1957 / black and white / Japanese, English subtitles / DVD 9 / 135 mins / Dolby digital 224kbps / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1
Cinemas Online supply showtimes for every cinema in the UK. To find out what's playing near you and to register for weekly showtimes updates from your local cinema, just enter your postcode:
|1.||Fast & Furious 6||£8.71m|
|2.||The Great Gatsby||£4.09m|
|3.||Star Trek Into Darkness||£3.67m|
|4.||Iron Man 3||£1.40m|