REVIEW: Tokyo Story (Blu-ray)

6:10 PM, Nov 26, 2013   |    comments
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Tokyo Story (Blu-ray)

The Criterion Collection / 1953 / 136 mins / NR

THE FILM:

The beauty of simplicity seems to be lost on the majority of movie going audiences today. Big special effects, big budgets, LOUD explosions, lightning fast editing, swooping camera moves that dip, dodge and can take us through the eye of a needle (or more often the barrel of a gun) are what brings in the crowds today. Sure there is alternative cinema; Woody Allen is still making quiet character driven films and your local art house will no doubt have a selection of thoughtful films from around the globe but for the most part, it is the action/adventure films that rock the box office. TOKYO STORY is exact opposite of a big Hollywood film; it is very quiet, the camera never moves (ok, this film famously has ONE shot in its 136 minutes where the camera moves) and there are no gun battles or fist fights. The main characters are an elderly couple who move quite slowly. And it is one of the best films ever made anywhere.

Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) and Tomi Hirayama (Chieko Higashiyama) have five children, four of which are grown and have moved on to the big city to make lives of their own. Since the kids rarely visit home and the folks are getting up in years, they decide to take one big journey to visit all their children and grandchildren. TOKYO STORY chronicles the Hirayama's journey and the life changing and heartbreaking encounters they have.

Director Yasujiro Ozu is considered one of the finest film directors of all time and TOKYO STORY is his undisputed masterpiece. His career spanned 53 films, almost all of them being studies of family dynamics and intensely realistic characters. TOKYO STORY was made in the later part of Ozu's career. He had made films since the silent era and while they contain numerous works of brilliance, they can also be seen as rehearsals for this movie. TOKYO STORY is not only the perfect Ozu film; it is a pinnacle in the art of storytelling. I honestly can't say enough good things about this movie. If you are a student of cinema or just want to see what genius storytelling on celluloid looks like, TOKYO STORY should be your first stop.

THE DISC:

The 1.33 transfer Criterion has delivered for their blu-ray not only dramatically improves on their DVD release, but also tops the recent British restoration. Noise has been practically eliminated while the fine layer of film grain remains intact. Sharpness and detail are excellent and the gray scale has been completely rebalanced. This is simply a gorgeous looking transfer.

While the original audio tracks sounded great on the DVD, the LPCM 1.0 sound mix for this blu-ray is even better. Some minor tweaking has been done to fix some of the few remaining instances of age-damage and the entire soundtrack appears to have been rebalanced. This is the ultimate release of TOKYO STORY on the market right now.

THE EXTRAS:

The supplement package from the original DVD release has been ported over and it is still a bountiful wealth of Ozu goodness:

A commentary by David Desser is a solid and informative one.

"Talking with Ozu" was a celebratory documentary made for Ozu's 90th birthday with an impressive array of top directors from around the world talking about their first experiences with an Ozu movie.

"I Lived, But..." is a whopping two hour plus documentary on the life of Ozu and is an absolutely must see.

"Chishu Ryu and Shochiku's Ofuna Studio" is a 1988 documentary focusing on the career of frequent Ozu actor Ryu.

The original 5 minute theatrical trailer rounds out the supplement package.

OUR SAY: 

One of the most beautiful, touching and moving films ever made, Criterion's Blu-ray of TOKYO STORY gets an extremely high recommendation!

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