Thursday, October 05, 2017

Tokyo no yado / An Inn in Tokyo (saundo-ban version)


Tokyo no yado (JP 1935). Takeshi Sakamoto (Kihachi) and Choko Iida (Otsune). Photo: National Film Center, Tokyo / Shochiku.

Tokyo no yado (JP 1935). Yoshiko Okada (Otaka) and Kazuko Ojima (Kimiko). Photo: National Film Center, Tokyo / Shochiku.

Tokyo no yado (JP 1935). Kazuko Ojima (Kimiko), Yoshiko Okada (Otaka), Takeshi Sakamoto (Kihachi), Takayuki Suematsu (Masako), and Tokkan Kozo (Zenko). Photo: National Film Center, Tokyo / Shochiku.

東京の宿 / [Una locanda di Tokyo], Yasujiro Ozu (JP 1935), scen: Tadao Ikeda, Masao Arata, story: “Winthat Monnet” by Yasujiro Ozu, Tadao Ikeda, Masao Arata, photog, ed: Hideo Mohara, mus: Keizo Horiuchi, cast: Takeshi Sakamoto (Kihachi, the father), Tokkan Kozo [Tomio Aoki] (Zenko), Takayuki Suematsu (Masako), Yoshiko Okada (Otaka), Kazuko Ojima (Kimiko), Choko Iida (Otsune), Chishu Ryu, prod: Shochiku, 35 mm (from 16 mm), 80′, sd.; titles: JPN, subt. ENG, source: National Film Center of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Japanese Cinema: Saundo-Ban Films.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian, 5 Oct 2010.

Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström (GCM 2017): "Ozu held out against making talkies longer than any other major Japanese director: his first full sound film, The Only Son (Hitori musuko), was released in 1936. Rather touchingly, Ozu’s intransigence was not out of aesthetic fidelity to the silent cinema, but was the result of a promise made to his cameraman, Hideo Mohara, who was developing his own sound-on-film system. Ozu had assured Mohara that he would not make a sound film with any other system."

"But by 1935 Ozu was obliged to accept that a pre-recorded musical score would be attached to this late silent, along with some sound effects. Moreover, the influence of the talkies, which by that time constituted nearly half of Japanese film production, is widely apparent in this film, which Ozu stated that Shochiku “made me make … just as though it were sound”. The film makes frequent use of “offscreen sound”, with the lines of dialogue in the intertitles not always spoken by the character shown onscreen. This technique is highly unusual in silent cinema, and still makes demands on the spectator."

"The film’s realism is characteristic of Ozu, and it is one of his most downbeat films. Made after several years in which Japan’s social harmony and economic prosperity had been rendered precarious by the worldwide Great Depression, it offers an unsparing portrait of poverty in Japan’s capital. A decade before the equivalent term was borrowed in Italy, Japanese critics used the term “neo-realismo” to describe the film’s approach; and indeed, Tadao Sato has compared the film to Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette). Nevertheless, Ozu’s formalism is also remarkable, as witness the striking shots of chimneys, telegraph poles, and large wooden spools in the opening scenes. For David Bordwell, the film “brings style into prominence through repetitive patterning and parametric variation”."

"Takeshi Sakamoto (1899-1974) reprises the role of proletarian father Kihachi, a character on whom he had played variations in Passing Fancy (Dekigokoro, 1933) and A Story of Floating Weeds (Ukigusa monogatari, 1934), while one of Kihachi’s two sons is played by Ozu’s regular child star, Tokkan-Kozo (real name Tomio Aoki, 1923-2004). The film placed ninth in the Kinema Junpo Best Ten critics’ poll of the year.
" Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström

AA: I saw for the first time An Inn in Tokyo, another Yasujiro Ozu masterpiece.

As a film about children it ranks with I Was Born, But... (1932) which to Donald Richie was the first of Ozu's great films.

This edition of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto started with King Vidor's The Crowd, and An Inn in Tokyo can be compared with it, too. The sons Zenko and Masako want look up to their father Kihachi who is poor, homeless, and unemployed and constantly discouraged in his attempts to find a job. Tables are turned as the little boys feed the family, earning money via catching stray dogs. Even then, the choice has to be made between "inn or dinner".

Then they meet Otaka and her daughter Kimiko. Otaka is even worse off because Kimiko catches dysentery and Otaka has no money to take her to the hospital. To Otaka her daughter is the best thing in life: "she is the one who keeps me going".

"Children become friends quickly", states Otaka as Zenko and Masako start to play rock-paper-scissors with Kimiko (after first having shown her the tongue). "Childhood is the best time in life" says Otaka, too.

Kihachi has moments of desperation but the kindly innkeeper lady Otsune lets his family stay at the inn and finds him a job. But the money is not enough to save Kimiko. Kihachi commits robbery, sends the money to Otaka and asks: "where is the nearest police station?" but not without confessing to Otsune first that "these ten days have been the happiest in my life".

In conventional terms An Inn in Tokyo is the story of a loser. In terms of a soul battle it is the story of a winner. Kihachi is a winner in dignity, self-respect and love. He does the wrong thing in order to do a much greater right thing. He saves more than one life: we know that Otaka could not stand losing Kimiko.

Excellent direction of actors. An assured rhythm with silences and ellipses, and moments of humour in an account of an era of depression. Recurrent visual motifs include smokestacks, clouds, and big cable reels. To me they spell transcendence unobtrusively.

The music of this saundo-ban movie is often interesting.

Visual quality: a well made print from challenging sources, blown up from 16 mm with damage marks on the image and noise on the soundtrack.

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