Tokyo Ga

DSC04336, originally uploaded by mxccuba.

‘And when you’ve seen Tokyo-Ga, a documentary about Japanese director Ozu, then obviously you want to know more about Ozu’ – the emphatic statement in The Elegance of the Hedgehog that compelled us to find the documentary. In addition, we specifically wanted to see The Munekata Sisters, but settled for revisiting Tokyo Story and others.

The two single most captivating things about the documentary are the introduction that begins with – ‘if there were still sacred things’ and the soundtrack; which I’m not quite sure how to describe, maybe: grinding, sharp, abrasive, sinister, ominous. Per Wenders, Ozu’s films again and again tell the same simple story, always of the same people and the same city, Tokyo. His work depicts the transformation of life in Japan, the slow deterioration of the Japanese family and thereby the deterioration of the national identity (or trauma) by lamenting with an unindulged sense of nostalgia, the loss taking place at the same time (universally).

On the heels of Colliding Islands, Wenders’ description of the ‘spring of 83 – I just don’t remember anymore. These images now exist and they have become my memory. If only it were possible to film like that (to just open your eyes), just to look without wanting to prove anything’. He describes his experience as that of a sleepwalker – recognising his Tokyo surroundings, but detached, grappling with his consciousness, in fact touching this space for the first time. This experience is reiterated in the Pachinko parlour (or galaxy), alone among many induces a kind of hypnosis, a strange feeling of happiness, but time passes and perhaps you forget what you always wanted to forget; the wax/plastic food studio where he wasn’t permitted to film while they ate their lunch amongst their wax creations and food catalogues; and the trains, all the trains, the constant movement, re-reflecting Ozu and further implying extremes or experiences between internal and external migration, something and nothingness.

One recognises the image and the experience. Constantly comprehending an inflation of transitory images and experiences, it’s difficult for reality to reveal itself within those extended moments. Anyway, a curious case of multiple influences collecting at the same time, or at least reading and interpreting multiple sources in a similar way. After Colliding Islands, it was good to pursue an obsessive film kick. I love mini-projects like that. Next, Hiroshi’s Korean film list.

  1. hello louise

    your blog is great – skipping through my mouse finger hit the wall of Ozu. one of the special things apart for the stillness and straightfowardness of his work, is his relationship to the ground plane he films from … as if it’s seen from the feet. Which makes a lot of sense to me – the world felt through the feet – floating up to the visual field.
    You might be interested in a movie called ‘the actor’s revenge’ (japanese title ‘Yukinojo Henge’) in 1962 a remake with director Kon Ichikawa and original actor in the part Hasagawa. We have a small BFI Film Classics book we found on some half price table somewhere.


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