This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Alexander Wood’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
An Inn in Tokyo is immaculately crafted. The shot selection here reeks of Ozu in his prime, only twenty years earlier. His knack for pleasant (to the eye) industrial landscapes goes beyond the word "painterly." All of the overused platitudes one could place upon Ozu's work apply here, which is a shocking testament to his consistent quality. On a technical level, I haven't seen many silent films do better.
The story here, divorced from the low-stakes-yet-profound family quarrels of his later career, is as tragic as ever. A father and his two sons play make-believe, imagining a lunchtime picnic filled with sake and revelry, only because real lunch is so far away. A homeless mother resorts to whoredom to pay for her child's hospital treatment. A man's simple industrial work is a true miracle by virtue of the security it provides. This work is then ripped away when the man's selfless actions embrace cruel societal consequence.
The tragic neorealism of An Inn in Tokyo will bum you out, but it will also impress upon you a fairly thorough dissertation on the moral decay of then-contemporary Japan. Guards at their post, doing nothing but watch time slip by, scoff and insult Kihachi when he asks for a job. A hospital shows no compassion for a dying child. An old friend of Kihachi refuses to give him the benefit of the doubt. A (confucian) culture where respect and social cohesion is supposed to be tantamount could give a damn about the lowest rungs of society. Ozu displays this moral decay not with scathing resentment, but with a matter-of-fact and unsentimental sigh. The Japanese culture Ozu sometimes wishes Japan'd return to in his post-war films seems far detached from the industrial Hellscape we're presented with here.
While An Inn in Tokyo is the Ozu film least-focused on generational differences I've seen thus far, it is still undoubtedly his. His yearning, delicate, and nuanced conservatism is still on display here; this is not a film that espouses revolution. Rather, it is one that calmly grasps for justice in a world overcome by selfishness and unbalanced hierarchies, the worst of these qualities harming the very future of the nation. Even Ozu at his most incensed would rather ruminate than explode, come-to-grips-with than revolt. An Inn in Tokyo is a fascinating film well in line with the Ozu canon.
It is one of his best.