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Film / Tokyo Chorus

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Tokyo Chorus is a 1931 film from Japan, directed by Yasujiro Ozu.

Shinji is a young insurance salesman in Tokyo, husband, father of two. He is something of a rebel and a free spirit, a bit more nonconformist than an office drone. One day he's too rebellious, arguing with his boss when the boss fires an older employee, and getting himself fired as well. Shinji must then scramble for work in a struggling economy.

Tokyo Chorus is a silent film. Silent films hung on for a little longer in Asia than they did in Hollywood; Ozu didn't make a talking film until 1934.

7-year-old Hideko Takamine appears as Miyoko, Shinji's daughter.


  • Brick Joke: All of the employees at the office sneak into the restroom to look at their bonuses. One drops his cash into the urinal when he's startled. He's seen later blow-drying each bill, carefully laid out on his desk.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Tokyo is a big city but Shinji finds his coworker Yamada in a public square. Later, he similarly meets his old schoolteacher Omura while out and about.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Offscreen, and in the backstory. The reason Shinji's elderly colleague is getting canned is that he sold an insurance policy to a man who was struck and killed by a car the next day.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the prologue. When the teacher orders all the other boys to take their coats off before exercise, Shinji doesn't. When the teacher makes him take off his coat, Shinji is revealed as not wearing his white undershirt. He then makes faces at the teacher. The teacher orders Shinji to stay behind while the others go off and exercise—and Shinji seizes the chance to smoke a cigarette. He's established as a rebellious free spirit.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: When Shinji runs into Yamada again, Yamada has been reduced to wearing a sandwich board and handing out fliers for insurance in the public square. Later, Shinji himself has to take a very similar job outside of Omura's cafe.
  • The Great Depression: Shinji looks at his thin bonus envelope and says "Hoover's policies haven't helped us yet." A later title card calls Tokyo "The city of the unemployed."
  • Signature Shot: Contains the shot-reverse shot dialogue exchanges in which characters each face the camera directly, which was a hallmark of Ozu's career.
  • Slice of Life: Like all Ozu films, a small-scale domestic drama, this one being about a family struggling to make ends meet in the Depression after the husband loses his job.
  • Time Skip: "Several years later" skips Shinji from a teenager at a boys' school to a husband and father.