Tokyo Twilight
(Tokyo boshoku) (1957)
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Artistic Value: * * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * * ½

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After leaving her husband, Takako (Setsuko Hara) moves back in with her father (Chishu Ryu) and her younger unmarried sister, Akiko (Ineko Arima), who has learned that she is pregnant. While Akiko tries to speak with her boyfriend, who is avoiding her, Takako discovers that her and her sister's mother, who had abandoned them as children, has returned to Tokyo, where they are living, and is operating a mah-jong parlor.

Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Twilight is not the director's finest work, but it is a consistently appealing, often touching film.

As he always does, Ozu brings out the joys and sorrows of his characters' lives with real skill. The viewer, consequently, is sure to find himself immersed in Akiko's desperation, in Takako's concern for her, and in their father's love for his children. The movie is absolutely filled with captivating depictions of the mundane yet magical existences of ordinary people.

Whatever the virtues of its narrative, Tokyo Twilight is, nonetheless, occasionally melodramatic. Instead of merely bringing out the emotional intensity of the events of daily life, Ozu, at times, opts for more extreme occurrences. In particular, those near the film's conclusion are presented in a less than completely subtle way.

That said, most such events, though sad, are not shown in a lurid light. While some are not perfectly realized, the film's flawed moments are exceptions to its generally high quality. More often than not, the difficult decisions or even calamities faced by the director's protagonists are nicely depicted. When Akiko, for example, comes to realize that her boyfriend has no intention of taking responsibility for his child and that she may have no option other than to have an abortion, Ozu does a far better job of making these events feel tragic than most other directors would have. His technique just is not as perfect here as it is elsewhere.

Fortunately, although the director does not restrain his story as effectively as he has those of most of his other films, and so does not quite give Tokyo Twilight the touching humanity those tales have, he has brought this narrative to life with his usual skill at creating lovely images. There is, in fact, hardly a moment of the movie that is not appealing to look at. Whether he is showing one of his actresses engaged in conversation, or standing in hallway, or resting in a room with others, the director conjures up visions that are as pleasingly composed as are the paintings of any master.

Lastly, I cannot fail to note that all the performers acquit themselves well. As is so often the case with the casts of Ozu's movies, it is impossible even to choose one or two individuals to praise over the others. Everyone in the movie is a joy to watch. Ozu was, very likely, the single best director of actors to have worked in motion pictures.

Even though it is not Ozu's best, Tokyo Twilight is a far better work than are the overwhelming majority of films that have been made. A mediocre movie by Ozu is still an accomplishment.

Review by Keith Allen

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