Tokyo Story by Yasujirô Ozu

 low camera angles, time ellipses, minimalist approach, and uninflected images are among the elements that make his style unique to a westerner.

Japanese film takes a different approach to cinema than western film. Instead of being action and plot driven Japanese film focuses more on the details of the reality created in the film. This has the effect of inviting the viewer to actively engage with the images. Instead of using diologue and overt or inflected images or expression Japanese film uses a less is more approach to delivering the information. Long shots in spaces that linger on characters with silent moments where either very little dialogue is spoken and/or very little action is taking place.

The viewer is an observer. At the same time the camera does not wonder around to each individual letting us peer into their conscience the way it often does in western film. The camera is set in one place and then maybe moved to the other side of the space to give a second perspective. This means that someone may be talking without the viewer having a direct line to their face. Yet, because of the less is more approach in which the film moves slower there is no frustration on the viewer’s part.

There are quite a few scenes where time is dealt with in a much different way than it is in western film. The diologue often lets us know what is happening next but the image does not show us the inbetween steps to the next event. For example, when the grandparents go out with Noriko to visit Tokyo, there is a lapse of documentation about how they meet up with Noriko or leave their daughter’s house. We see them at their daughter’s house and then we see them on the tour bus.

There are many other treatments of time like this. For example, when the grandparents leave Tokyo on the train headed home we do not get to witness what the grandmother becoming ill. We only briefly see the son’s reaction and then the next shot is back in Tokyo when a telegram is being sent to the daughter’s house. We get all of the information in a very practical way, but without the drama and information overload of western film. This has the effect of forcing the viewer to use what they have learned about the characters and the situations to create the missing images in their head, if they are curious to see what happened. It also allows the viewer to spend more time on, in this case, the reactions of the children and observing their personalities at such a time. This latter point is more relevant to the film and the grandmother getting sick would be extra information. So, this is the less-is-more approach to story telling, case in point.

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