Tokyo Twilight (1957)

Almost as long as Early Spring, Ozu’s last black-and-white film is probably just as overlong as that film, but I found myself liking it rather better on the whole. Tokyo Twilight was apparently considered quite the bomb upon its original release, though its reputation has risen over time and it seems to be widely considered one of his best; but where Early Spring seemed to have a bitter undercurrent, this one is markedly darker, both thematically and literally (set during winter and much of it taking place at late hours; there’s a certain noir flavour to some of the visuals). Nice to see Chishu Ryu given more prominence, and nice to see Ozu also reuniting with Setusko Hara, but the intergenerational clashes on show aren’t quite his usual style… Ryu is the father, Hara is one of his two daughters, and the mother, well, she fled years ago, and despite the old man’s best efforts both girls have grown up into difficulty; one into an unhappy marriage with an alcoholic and the other (the younger, Ineko Arima) into incipient delinquency, haunting mahjongg parlours and other scuzzy downtown dives, and faced with an unwanted pregnancy thanks to her clearly worthless boyfriend. This, obviously, is a somewhat more melodramatic tale than usual from Ozu, which may have been part of the reason audiences and critics of the time seem to have been sniffy about it, Ozu trying to go beyond his normal reach and all that… still, compared to how a Hollywood film of the same period would probably have told the story, the melodrama’s actually relatively mild, with only a couple of moments where I thought things were overdone. And even those moments were only moderate, really. On the whole, it is longer than necessary, and it’s harder to love than some of his films, but still very good stuff.

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