Instead of musing about Tokyo Story, one of best films in the world, I decided to watch the remake and muse about that.
Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953) is a masterpiece of ponderous simplicity and it tells one of the simplest of stories – an old couple visits their children who have set up homes in Tokyo but they are too busy with their jobs and lifestyles to pay their old parents much heed.
While pondering about Yoji Yamada’s Tokyo Family (2013), my thoughts kept lingering on Ozu’s seminal film. It’s inevitable. Tokyo Family is a modern update of Ozu’s film. It has the exact same plot and sage message. The execution recalls Ozu’s stylistics like deliberate positional, static shots and scenes that breathed with a languid glacial quality. Yamada who worked as an assistant director for Ozu on Tokyo Story gives homage to his master by replicating the same film with a current Tokyo setting. If everything is more or less the same, why is there even a need for a remake? Maybe it’s an update of the masterpiece for this present generation. Like Ozu, Yamada doesn’t rely on cheap visual and music cues to hook wink you to feel something – a testament that Ozu’s film techniques still work in this century and probably will do so forever. Less is more. If the western world makes a film like this, I am sure they will use typecasting and make the children ‘evil’. Ozu/Yamada never makes this cheap move – the grown-up children are not depicted as evil, they are as real as can be. This is a film that as you watch you get the feeling that nothing really happens. But when it ends you have the feeling that everything has happened and your life is richer for having sat through a great lesson by a Teacher. Tokyo Family is a great reminder for the current generation on virtues like respect, filial piety and just plain basic manners.