Edited and Updated 2016
Yasujiro Ozu is the sort of filmmaker for whom each film is but one slice of the whole. Each work was a quiet prayer for the human existence, but they do not individually begin or end so much as always exist, flowing off the screen and into one another to create a tapestry of past, present, and future. Tokyo Story is usually considered his most enduring film, partially for outside reasons (it was the one historically most available in the West for one), and while the film speaks for itself, it does Ozu a disservice to play the game of superlatives and pass them all Tokyo Story’s way, as so many Western viewers have taken to over the years. He was a quiet, reserved director who let his images do the talking, and each image exists primarily in tandem with those around it, and to those of his entire career. Many of the things that can be said of Tokyo Story, and have been said throughout the decades, apply to his corpus of work; Tokyo Story itself serves a utilitarian purpose to elucidate what made the director’s style so attuned to humanity’s woes, and so able to transcend simple melancholy for perhaps the most warming, comforting filmmaking to ever be given to this world. But if Tokyo Story “defines” Ozu, that is because Ozu so carefully defines Tokyo Story in the way he would define all of his films.