Isn't life disappointing?

Isn’t life disappointing?

On the whole, none of the films I’ve chosen through two years’ worth of blind spot entries have been specifically timed. However, you might recall that one such instance of a film being timed happened back in January. On my friend Helen’s recommendation, I slid IKIRU into the first slot of the year for its association with resolutions. Well, while my selection for December wasn’t timed, it certainly feels like dumb luck made it timely.

I have ended the year where I began it – with a classic piece of Japanese cinema. A film made just one year after IKIRU in fact, and one that feels deeply apropos for the time of year. It’s a film I felt slightly intimidated by, but one I see myself revisiting soon. My final blindspot of 2013 was Ozu’s TOKYO STORY, and I couldn’t have been happier with what unfurled.

TOKYO STORY is a very human and subtle tale of a family. At the tale’s centre is the elderly parents/grandparents Shukichi and Tomi. The couple lives to the southwest of Tokyo with their youngest daughter. At the film’s outset, Shukichi and Tomi are packing for a trip to the city, preparing to call on the rest of their children. As the film goes on they move from home to home, spending just slivers of time with each of their now-grown children.

The family, it seems, has little time for their parents…an attitude that is common as time passes within every family, but no less unfortunate as the film goes on to show us.

Japanese Dock

I didn’t deliberately leave this film until December, but doing so definitely underlined its core message. Like many of you, I sit here more than a little tired after running around from house-to-house through the holiday season. It’s the routine that we all partake in as we grow up and leave the nest, the routine that was set down long before we got here and will continue long after we’re gone. We do so because no matter what we do with our lives, or how far away we move, there is always a connection to the people we share a blood bond with. Likewise, we do it because despite the inconvenience, spending time with our families is the more rewarding than any gift we could give. Our parents don’t want us to spend mad amounts of money, or put out a massive spread. They just want a bit of our time and company.

The problem – as TOKYO STORY illustrates – is that sometimes time and company are difficult to provide. What then?

What TOKYO STORY wants to reassure us is that our parents understand. Like the children in the film, we may grow disappointed with our siblings (or even ourselves) for not “doing more”. We may look around and see a supposed lack of effort. We might feel as though our parents are going ignored, or that we are being ungrateful. However, our parents understand that they are but one part in our lives, and that the effort is always there in our hearts, if not in practice. They know this because they already went through it with their own parents.

Shukichi and Friend

The way TOKYO STORY illustrates our parents’ patience goes one step further during a scene between Shukichi and his friends in a bar. It’s there that the men get into a discussion about what they expected of their children and what came to be.

It’s the hope of every child that they will eclipse their parent in some manner: grow smarter, more talented, more successful. It’s an instilled key to happiness, and perhaps quietly an in-road to being able to provide for their parents later. But as we listen to Shukichi speak about his son’s humble medical practice, we see that parents can have an unexpected perspective to them. They can tell when their children are putting in an honest effort, and living a fruitful life. It might not be the life they envisioned or even one that another parent would want for their child. However a parent’s ability to recognize the good things their children are doing provides validation.

Our parents may challenge us, they might even push us well into our adult years. When it matters though, our parents believe in us, and will ferociously defend what we are doing with our lives to anyone who may question it.

Chishu Ryu

Within the film itself, I was deeply taken with Ozu’s use of long shots within the houses. The way the doors and windows work within the shots make for wonderful repetition – squares and rectangles within the rectangular shot. Frames within frames. It’s a gentle way of underlining the way this parent/child interaction will repeat itself over and over. Our parents related this way to their parents, we relate this way with our parents, our children will relate this way with us. The squares and rectangles are larger and smaller from shot to shot, echoing the emotional variables that occur from family to family. Still, they are omnipresent, and repeat infinitely.

In a way, I wish we could revisit this family every twenty years like the 7-Up series. I would love to see how the children are relating with their own children, and how the whole dynamic changes from generation to generation. Are the lessons passed down? Does regret temper attitudes as times pass and opportunities are missed? I suppose we’ll never know, but one hopes that the love these children are left with is paid forward to their own children.

For quite a while now, I’ve been preoccupied with the notion of quality time. We live in an age where keeping up with people – including our parents – is amazingly easy and convenient. Many of us don’t though. Forget about giving them actual facetime, often we need our arms twisted to return an email or a text. One wonders what the ultimate cost of that will be.

If TOKYO STORY is any barometer, our parents will understand, having gone through the drought of quality time once already themselves. The question remains though, will we understand?

I usually post Blind Spot entries on the final Tuesday of every month. If you are participating, drop me an email (ryanatthematineedotca) when your post is up and I’ll make sure to link to your entry.
Here’s the round-up for December so far…

Steven Flores watched BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN

Sean Kelly watched PINK FLAMINGOS

Dan Heaton watched MILLENIUM ACTRESS

Andy Hart watched THE POLAR EXPRESS

SDG also watched TOKYO STORY

Will Kouf watched SWING TIME

Josh watched RAISE THE RED LANTERN

Courtney watched WINGS OF DESIRE

Better late than never: Bob Turnbull watched MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and THE GRAPES OF WRATH