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Thursday, February 11, 2016

TÔKYÔ NO KÔRASU / TOKYO CHORUS (1931)

Yasujirô Ozu brings a mix-master’s sensibility to this charming domestic silent. Opening on school academy drills & hijinks Harold Lloyd might recognize, it abruptly jumps a decade ahead to follow the family & working life of one former student. A regular cut-up back in the day, now he’s a real butter & egg man (is there a Japanese term for ‘bland solid citizen type?’), trying to keep kids & wife happy and standing up at the office when a near-pensioner is unfairly let go. A dangerous bit of defiance during the Depression. But reconnecting with his strict old teacher, and having the courage to take a temporary step down, may open new doors. Ozu really gives himself a genre workout here, juggling tones & situations that have little reason to fit together. (Leo McCarey’s potluck comedies spring to mind.) And while it’s a lot different than his later films, Ozu-heads will pick right up on the endearingly obstinate behavior of the bratty son & whiny daughter. Tokihiko Okada, is exceptional (and exceptionally handsome) as the father, but all too little known having died less than three years after this from TB.

DOUBLE-BILL: Just a year later, Ozu arranged many of these themes in more personally recognizable form as I WAS BORN, BUT . . . /’32, perhaps his first masterpiece.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: On the Criterion DVD, a rare misfire from silent film pianist/scorer Donald Sosin who gives the whole film a sort of ‘20s jazz/ragtime buzz. Fine in the opening section; less so after that. Suggestions?

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