An Inn in Tokyo (“Tôkyô no yado”)
Directed by Yasujirô Ozu
Kihachi is unemployed and is raising his two young sons. The little family is so poor that it relies on the boys catching stray dogs and bringing them in for rabies shots for a bounty to get money to eat and shelter from the elements in a common inn. Sometimes they must choose between eating and shelter. Despite this, the children manage to enliven this bleak existence with imagination and mischief. They meet a woman and her young daughter at the inn and the children become friends.
Kihachi has the very good fortune of meeting an old female friend who helps him find work. The mother of the girl remains unemployed and Kihachi gets his friend to (reluctantly) help feed those two as well. The older boy goes to school and all the children play together after he gets home. The mother and daughter eventually fail to turn up. It turns out the daughter is seriously ill. Then Kihachi does something he shouldn’t to help them and puts his own family’s future at risk.
This is Ozu’s last silent film and one of his best. It has been compared to The Bicycle Thieves in its focus on the effects of poverty on the dignity of the individual. Despite the somber subject matter, the parts of the film that focus on the children are really charming. The clip shows a scene I particularly liked where the older boy tries to cheer up the father by pretending to serve him sake. Ozu’s style had matured by this point and many of his trademarks are in place. There is a very interesting ellision in which the boys lose a parcel and we completely skip any angry words from the father. The acting, including especially that of the children, is top-notch.
I watched the film on Hulu Plus streaming. It is also currently available on YouTube. The print is not pristine by any means but that did not interfere with my enjoyment of this wonderful film.