A Zoom Salon of Tokyo Story (1953) 136 min | Mechanics' Institute

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A Zoom Salon of Tokyo Story (1953) 136 min
September 2020: Classics from the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema

CinemaLit Popcorn Pop-Up Salon: September-- The Golden Age of Japanese Cinema

Hello Film Lovers,

Welcome back to CinemaLit! We have missed our Friday night gatherings. Laura, Pam, and I are excited to launch this new format for CinemaLit as we Shelter at Home. We will be viewing films on Kanopy and gathering online for a Popcorn Pop-Up Salon!

All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom two days in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at [email protected]


Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:

1. Click on  THIS LINK.

2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”

3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card

4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.

5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.

You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.

If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click  HERE  to join online:

Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.

 Matthew Kennedy, curator and host

CinemaLit Film Series

September 2020:The Golden Age of Japanese Cinema

For September at CinemaLit, we are discussing Rashomon (1950), Tokyo Story (1953), and Ugetsu (1953), three films from Japanese masters Akia Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Kenji Mizoguchi.

In the wake of World War II, a defeated Japan looked to films for aesthetic, moral, and spiritual renewal. The success of Kurosawa's Rashomon brought greater financing to Japanese film studios as well as international distribution. The results are "The Golden Age of Japanese Cinema" and yielded some of the most ravishing films ever made.

Kurosawa (Rashomon, Ikiru, The Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood), Ozu, (Late Spring, Early Summer, Tokyo Story, Floating Weeds) and Mizoguchi (The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff) were at the top of their games in the 1950s. Their films have an extraordinary dual effect. They are simultaneously despairing and hopeful, realistic and fantastical, specific and universal. They didn't compromise to an expanded global market, but remained profoundly Japanese works of art. An outsider can't absorb all the cultural references steeped into these films. Even so, with their themes of family, crime and punishment, forgiveness, honor, birth, death, and war, they shine a light into the deepest places of the human heart.

September 18 – Tokyo Story (1953)

In Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story, an elderly couple travel from their rural home to Tokyo to visit their adult children. The trip is a disappointment – their children barely have time for them. From the barest of scenarios comes an achingly poetic film as the family structure and conflicts are slowly revealed to us.

Ozu envisioned film like no one else. On first viewing, his style appears as minimal, cinema stripped to its essence. Exterior shots are exquisitely composed studies in stillness and motion, nature and industry. For interior scenes, he stations his camera at kneeling level, and instructs his actors to look directly at the lens. In dialogue, we replace whoever isn't on screen. The camera becomes our view and the view of whoever is listening. We are effectively in the room, sitting on a tatami mat with the family.

"This is one of my most melodramatic pictures," Ozu said of Tokyo Story, yet it is light years away from the more overtly expressive Western forms of that genre. The rewards of Tokyo Story (and other Ozu films such as Late Spring, Early Summer, and the comedy Good Morning) are profound. What may sound like acute boredom to action-addicted Americans become soul-penetrating experiences. Ozu's actors are contained and subdued, but feelings churn immediately below social propriety and placid exteriors.

Ozu has an enormous faith in the power of cinema to transform everyday life into something deeply stirring. In all of Tokyo Story's 136 minutes, he directs the camera to move twice. Twice! His formal visuals allow complex responses from his audience. Ultimately, Ozu's films aren't minimal at all. Though he is considered the most Japanese of the great classic directors, his Tokyo Story reflects the hard truths in all of humanity.

Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies. 

I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”

Register with Eventbrite below.

If the green TICKET button is not immediately visible, scroll down on the right in the Eventbrite window until it appears


CinemaLit Films

Members Free
Public Sliding Scale Free to $10
Register now ›
Pam Troy - 415-393-0116
Register now by using the form below or calling .

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