Notebook

Life & Loss

At times of upheaval, it matters, for the sake of understanding, to extend one’s perspective as broadly as possible. It matters no less, at the same time, to focus on particulars, lest the complexity of seemingly insoluble conflicts overwhelm us. We read of soldiers in both the First and the Second World Wars who hankered after the novels of Jane Austen. Cinema can likewise root us in human particulars, revealing their beauty and letting us sense the universal significance within them. A master of this art was Yasujirō Ozu. His 1953 film Tokyo Story, remastered in 2017, is a fine evocation of life and loss, filial failure, selfless devotion, and the uncertainty of old age. Ozu once remarked to a reporter: ‘Pictures with obvious plots bore me.’ Tokyo Story is not a film of action, but its characters are drawn with moving, utterly credible precision. It is a work of high art that challenges viewers to reflect on what is, in fact, of consequence in life. A challenge that, here and now, is of vital importance.