Watched: 28 January

Hou’s Hsiao-hsien’s tribute to Ozu Yasojiro, made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the revered Japanese filmmaker’s birth, is a low-key but endlessly fascinating film (though as a committed Japanophile I would happily watch scenes depicting quotidian Japanese life, as seen here, for hours on end). There’s no plot to speak of, but the action follows writer Yoko (played by Yo Hitoto) as she visits her parents, stops by various bookshops, researches the late Taiwanese composer Jiang Wen-Ye and rides around on trains. Our knowledge of the main character, as well as that of three or four recurring minor characters, such as Yoko’s parents, builds gradually and subtly, and even the most innocuous-seeming scenes reveal plenty about the lives and attitudes of those who feature – much like Ozu’s films, in fact. There are stylistic similarities, too, particularly with regard to the way interiors are filmed using medium shots; however it’s the great cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin’s long shots that impress the most, particularly when he turns his camera on densely-packed urban scenes, through which trains trundle to and fro along tracks built at different levels, human figures seemingly trapped in smaller frames within the frame. (***½)