Family Plots

In the annals of audacious counterprogramming, it’s hard to beat a Yasujiro Ozu series going up against Hollywood’s summer onslaught of infantile antics and empty explosions. A director of exquisitely elemental films — dismissed as “too Japanese” by some critics, just as Akira Kurosawa’s movies were deemed too Western — Ozu eschewed melodramatic and stylistic flourishes in a career that spanned the silent era to the early '60s. “Ozu on Sentimental Tokyo” is a somewhat unfair tag to hang on a filmmaker who pared familial sagas to their essence, earning every iota of emotion. In his wrenching 1953 masterwork Tokyo Story, for example, an older couple treks to the big city to visit their adult children, who don’t have time for them (until it’s too late). The curdled promises of a white-collar career underlie Early Spring, the aching saga of a disillusioned desk jockey who dabbles in adultery. The Only Son (1936) and Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947) complete the 35mm minitribute to a director whose extensive vocabulary did not include “blockbuster.”
June 12-17, 2010

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