TOKYO-GA: Ozu, A Relic Of The Cinema (An Excerpt From The Script TOKYO-GA)

If our century still had any shrines... if there were any relics of the cinema, then for me it would have to be the corpus of the Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. He made fifty-four films in all, silents in the twenties, black-and-white films in the thirties and forties, and finally colour films until his death in 1963 – on 12 December, his sixtieth birthday.

Ozu's films always tell the same simple stories, of the same people, in the same city of Tokyo. They are told with extreme economy, reduced to their barest essentials. They show how life has changed in Japan over forty years. Ozu's films detail the slow decline of the Japanese family and the collapse of national identity. They don't do it by pointing aghast at the new, American, occidental influences, but by lamenting the losses with a gentle melancholy as they occur.

His films may be thoroughly Japanese, but they are also absolutely universal. I have seen all the families in the world in them, including my parents, my brother and myself. Never before or since has the cinema been so close to its true purpose: to give an image of man in the twentieth century, a true, valid and useful image, in which he can not only recognize himself, but from which he can learn as well.

Ozu's work doesn't need my praise. In any case, a relic of the cinema could only exist in an imaginary world. My journey to Tokyo was no sort of pilgrimage. I wondered whether I could still detect any traces of the time, whether there was anything left of that work, images or even people, or if too much had changed in Tokyo and in Japan in the twenty years since Ozu's death, and it was all irrecoverable.

I no longer have the slightest recollection.
I recollect nothing whatsoever.
I know I was in Tokyo.
I know it was in the spring of 1983.
I know.
I had a camera with me and did some filming. I have the pictures, they have become my memory. But I think to myself: if you'd gone there without a camera, you would remember more.

TOKYO-GA is available on DVD and VOD through AX1 Films.