. Black and White . 90 minutes
Shochiku Kamata Studio
Okada Tokihiko (Okajima Shinji)
Yagumo Emiko (Sugako)
Sugawara Hideo (Son)
Takamine Hideko (Daughter)
Saito Tatsuo (Omura)
Iida Choko (Mrs Omura)
Sakamoto Takeshi (Yamada)
Tani Reiko (Company President)
Miyajima Kenichi (Secretary)
Yamaguchi Isamu (Employee)
Okajima stands up for a mistreated colleague in
his insurance firm, and gets fired. Deprived of
his year end bonus, he is unable to honor his
promise to buy his son a bicycle. When his daughter
falls sick he has to pay for the hospital bills
by pawning his wife's kimonos. After some setbacks
in job-hunting, he runs into an old schoolmaster,
who asks him to help at his new curry restaurant.
At first reluctant, Okajikma and his wife swallow
their pride and work hard. At a reunion of classmates
held at the restaurant., Okajima learns that his
teacher has found him a job at a girl's school
far from Tokyo.
Thoughts from Ozu
I was getting sick of failure, and decided
to make a film in a nonchalant mood. Shooting
proceeded at the height of summer. It was too
hot to shoot outdoor scenes even on sunny days.
Since that time, I couldn't figure out what to
do to make a good film. What can a director bequeath
to posterity? I began to find film meaningless.
Now, I feel the other way around. The very fact
that films could fade into oblivion is what makes
it so enchanting.
The 22nd film, shot from June to August 1931. The
credit title indicates the name of Kitamura Komatsu
for the original idea. However, Kitamura did not
write write or tell the story. Rather, the screenplay
used many different situations from several of his
noels that were published together in December 1930
under the title Middle Class Avenue (Shoshimin-gai).
For example, the hero works in a life insurance
company (from The Ambitions of the Office Worker,
Yamada/Gekkyutari Yamada-kun no haki), the
children are rebellious because they do not get
what they want (Doll/Ohina-sama), the daughter
of an unemployed father gets sick, and the kimonos
have to be taken to the pawnshop (Ayako's Father/Ayako
no chichi). The episode of the gymnastics teacher
of middle-school who opens a restaurant and distributes
handbills for publicity is taken from Ibuse Masui's
novel The Teacher and the Advertisment Squad
(Sensei no kokokutai). (Although Ibuse
is not credited, his name appears in the screenplay,
together with Kitamura.). Noda Kogo skillfully integrated
these diverse elements into the coherent story.
The hero of this film does not live in a boarding
house, neither does he live in an apartment, but
in a solitary house. He is not single, but has a
wife and three children. In other words, he is an
office worker living in the suburbs (probably in
the center of town). The contrast and tension between
the two spaces, "suburb" and "downtown"
becomes the main theme of this film. With Pumpkin
(Kabocha, 1928) Ozu made his first film about
an office worker, followed by The Life of an
Office Worker (Kaishain seikatsu, 1929),
The Luck Which Touched the Leg/Lost Luck
(Ashi ni sawatta koun, 1930), one film each
year. Since the farce Pumpkin, the serious
elements increased gradually, also due to the collaboration
of Noda Kogo since The Life of an Office Worker.
Ten years his senior, Noda brought Ozu back to reality
when he lingered on jokes and gags. Ozu remembered
this production as quite easygoing, made without
a shooting script. This seems to be an understatement.
Not only did Ozu write an essay on the importance
of elaborated continuity at about the same time,
but also the minute construction of the scene where
the family claps hands seems to be impossible without
continuity. The shot of the father, with his child
on his back, looking at the fireworks, is one of
Ozu's most beautiful shots.
Chorus : Silent Volume
by Chris Edwards
Thoughts and Comments
Tokyo Chorus is a wonderful introduction
of Ozu during the silent era. Thematically you
can certainly see that Ozu later built upon what
he developed early on here, and stylistically
there is clearly a more Hollywood influenced approach.
The film is tragic yet deeply hopeful at the same
time. One of the key examinations of the film
is the contrast between urban and suburban living,
but ultimately this is a film of parenthood in
it's very essence. The film is remarkably moving
particularly in the way Ozu captures (without
sentiment) the childrens understanding of their
fathers work simply as a means to provide them
with food. There are some remarkable images and
sequences within this film that are very memorable
and Ozu blends his definitive mix of humor and
bittersweet sadness. Above all, Tokyo Chorus
displays the early depicts of a poetic master.