Tokyo-Ga (1985)

Wim Wenders fiction hasn’t always hit home with me and some (like MIllion Dollar Hotel) I found rather dull. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect about his film essay on Yasujiro Ozu and Tokyo city, the setting for most of Ozu’s films. But I really enjoyed Tokyo-Ga, a meditative film suffused with Ed Lachman’s beautiful images, a hauntingly laconic soundtrack & Wender’s penetrating intellect, always keeping sight of the human behind such seeming strangeness. There are many moments that will stay with me for a long time, especially the moving interview with Ozu’s cameraman, Yuharu Atsuta, in which he reflects on his career-long devotion to the master filmmaker. For us in the West, it’s rare to see such single-minded loyalty to another outside of a religious context, but what Wenders’ coaxes from his interviewee is a deep sense of personal fulfilment, love, and admiration. Here is a man who can make a claim no other filmmaker in the world can: that he served the same director throughout his career first as camera assistant, then camera operator and eventually as director of photography – ‘the dog of a big house’. This could quite easily have been pilloried as self-limiting traditionalist behaviour, but what we’re left with is a moving portrait of an ordinary person who’s found (for a while at least) a real sense of meaning to their life.

Tokyo-Ga is a great companion piece to Chris Marker’s highly reverred film essay San Soleil – which is referred to in the piece and was filmed in Japan at about the same time. It is certainly no less a work, and deserves to find new audiences. I watched it via Lovefilm Instant, but it’s also available via the Criterion Collection and a 10 dvd disc Wenders collection issued by Anchor Bay.


About Darwin Franks

Filmmaker, Cinephile, Writer, Athiest, Civil Servant

One comment

  1. Never seen this one, though I’ve been meaning to. I’ll check it out soon. Nice post!

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