Tokyo Twilight Movie Review
Mr. Sugiyama (Ozu favorite Chisyu Ryu) is an aging father of two adult daughters. Older daughter Takako (Setsuko Hara, another Ozu regular), is separated from her boozing husband, while younger daughter Akiko (Ineko Arima) has slid into what is considered bad behavior in 1950s Japan: hanging around mah-jongg parlors in the bad part of town and getting herself pregnant.
It's at a mah-jongg parlor where Akiko first encounters an older woman who, she later learns, may be her mother, a woman who abandoned her young family years earlier under mysterious circumstances. That abandonment has clearly left its mark not only on Sugiyama but also on both daughters. Takako may not overtly blame her father for arranging her unhappy marriage, but he feels that blame anyway. Akiko, suspecting that her father may not be her real father, seems plagued by the metaphysical question of "Who am I?" and she's so out of sorts that she even borrows money from family friends and marches off to get an abortion, touchy stuff for a film of this era.
"Bringing up a child isn't easy," says Sugiyama. That's for sure, and Ozu doesn't cut him any slack. In his other films, Ozu is usually sympathetic to the cares and woes of the older generation, but this time around he makes Sugiyama suffer, suggesting that the sins of his past have come back to poison the next generation. As you look at Takako's adorable two-year-old daughter, you can't help but wonder if some kind of family curse is going to come down upon her too.
As usual, Ozu deploys all his stylistic quirks. There are train rides (not to mention a deadly train crossing), group singing, seedy sake bars, and even a visit to The Eel, a charming little restaurant down an alley that appears in many of Ozu's films. (One wonders how a restaurant called The Eel would fare in your average American city.)
Ozu's knack for the microscopic dissection of family dynamics is as powerful in Tokyo Twilight as ever. Watch it and be reminded that open lines of communication between generations are vital if an extended family is to remain intact.
DVD Note: Tokyo Twilight is one of five films included in Late Ozu, a Criterion Collection box set of Ozu's best final films that's worth seeking out.
Aka Tokyo Boshoku.