This revered classic was virtually unknown outside its director’s native Japan for almost two decades. Unlike most better-known Japanese films of its era, like Rashomon (1950) and Gate of Hell (1953), TOKYO STORY is a contemporary piece rather than an historical epic, which may account for its being considered “too Japanese” for release to Western audiences. Its simple tale of an aged couple’s visit to their children, who can barely spare time for them, is universal in its depiction of such basic human issues as aging and intergenerational conflict. The plot was suggested by Ozu’s screenwriter, Kogo Noda, who was influenced by director Leo McCarey’s MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (1937). Like that film, it eschews easy sentimentality and big emotional scenes in favor of simple human drama. After a Museum of Modern Art screening in 1964, a year after director Yasujiro Ozu’s death, the film was given its first U.S. commercial release in 1972, when it won new audiences and helped drive the international rediscovery of the director’s work.
Dir. Yasujiro Ozu