Tokyo Twilight (1957)

Tokyo Twilight (Tôkyô boshoku)tokyo poster
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Written by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda
Shochiku Eiga
Repeat viewing/Hulu


The pattern of the prodigal is: rebellion, ruin, repentance, reconciliation, restoration. Edwin Louis Cole

Of all Ozu’s domestic dramas, this is the one that made me cry most.

Kisako Sugiyama (Isuzu Yamada) abandoned her husband Shukichi (Chisu Ryu) and three children years ago.  The son subsequently died in an accident.  Daughter Tatako (Setsuko Hara) was old enough to remember her mother but daughter Akiko was only a toddler.  As the story begins, Tatako and her own daughter have moved back in with Shukichi.  Tatakoi doesn’t want to talk about it but it seems that her marriage is breaking up as well. Akiko is staying out late at night and worrying her family terribly.  She spends much time searching for her erstwhile boyfriend Kenji who has been avoiding her.


She needn’t have bothered.  When Akiko finally tracks down her man to tell him she is pregnant, he is no help whatsoever.  She is all alone.  She feels even more alone later. Then she discovers that the woman at the mah jong parlor who took an interest in her is actually her mother.
tokyo 1

Damn, it is hard to be a woman.  Or a person really.  All of Ozu’s films deal with the dissolution of the Japanese family but this takes it to a new level of frankness.  I felt so sorry for each and every person in this movie that the tears started about 30 minutes before the end.  None of this is a criticism.  The whole thing is exquisitely and sensitively done. Recommended.

Isuzu Yamada was having quite a year.  Her most memorable role is as the Lady Macbeth character in Throne of Blood, but there’s the lustful, vengeful landlady in Lower Depths, and her subtly heartbreaking performance in this as well. She was certainly a fine actress.

Excerpt from the score

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