Setsuko Hara. It’s unlikely you’ve heard her name or seen any of her numerous films, yet she was the muse of one of the world’s greatest filmmakers: Japan’s Yasujiro Ozu. And you may well not have heard of him, either, since none of his films were released in the United States during his lifetime; it was thought they were “too Japanese.” During the 1960s Akira Kurosawa was the director thought to be more accessible to western cultures. While little known to the average person, among cinephiles Ozu is one of the most highly-regarded directors in the history of film, and his movie Tokyo Story is ranked in the top tier of the greatest films ever made, along with Citizen Kane and Vertigo.
Welles, Hitchcock, and Ozu.
Like most of Ozu’s films, the plot for his 1953 masterpiece Tokyo Story is deceptively simple: an elderly couple travel to Tokyo to visit their children, who have little time to spend with their parents. Only one, the widow of their son who died in the war, is genuinely happy to see them. She is played by Setsuko (pronounced Sets-ko) Hara with a restrained warmth that is unforgettable. The forward movement in Ozu’s films is almost entirely born of emotion, not action. The camera rarely moves.
Tokyo Story drapes a blanket of melancholy over its audience and was inspired by Leo McCarey’s 1937 film, Make Way for Tomorrow, which is even more bleak if such a thing is possible. Of McCarey’s film Orson Welles is reputed to said, “Oh my God that’s the saddest movie ever made … It would make a stone cry.”
But in Tokyo Story there is an enormous emotional restraint in the performances of the actors — a hallmark of Ozu’s work. Read the rest
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Roger Ebert poo-poos the idea that piracy is at the root of dropping film revenues and ascribes the phenomenon instead to crappy movies and crappy theaters that charge too much.
2. Ticket prices are too high. People have always made that complaint, but historically the movies have been cheap compared to concerts, major league sports and restaurants. Not so much any longer. No matter what your opinion is about 3D, the charm of paying a hefty surcharge has worn off for the hypothetical family of four.
3. The theater experience. Moviegoers above 30 are weary of noisy fanboys and girls. The annoyance of talkers has been joined by the plague of cell-phone users, whose bright screens are a distraction. Worse, some texting addicts get mad when told they can't use their cell phones. A theater is reportedly opening which will allow and even bless cell phone usage, although that may be an apocryphal story.
4. Refreshment prices. It's an open secret that the actual cost of soft drinks and popcorn is very low. To justify their inflated prices, theaters serve portions that are grotesquely oversized, and no longer offer what used to be a "small popcorn." Today's bucket of popcorn would feed a thoroughbred.