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Japan 1959
Directed by
Yasujiro Ozu
119 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Floating Weeds

A remake of Yasujirô Ozu's own black-and-white silent film, A Story Of Floating Weeds (1934), Floating Weeds is reminiscent of Bergman for the way it probes the secrets of a small itinerant acting troupe struggling to eke out a living in their endangered profession. .

The story takes place during the summer of 1958 at a small seaside town in the Inland Sea. A troupe of travelling Kabuki players headed by its lead actor and founder, Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura) arrives by ship. Komajuro visits his former mistress (Haruko Sugimura) who runs a small eatery in the town and who is mother to their illegitimate son, Kiyoshi. When Sumiko, the lead actress of the troupe and Komajuro's current mistress, learns that Komajuro is visiting his former mistress, she offers Kayo (Ayako Wakao), a pretty young actress from the same troupe to money to seduce Kiyoshi. Meanwhile the company is disintegrating as audiences are failing to attend and its manager absconds with all their money.

If the story is very much one that Bergman would have responded to, and Ozu’s treatment has quite a sympathetically melancholy, such-is-life feel to it in its depiction of a disappearing time, visually Ozu’s treatment is very different to the Swedish master’s. Shot in colour by Kazuo Miyagawa, one of Japan's most highly regarded cinematographers, the film is distinctive for its precise visual compositions with only one travelling shot, a ferry docking at the harbour, to break Ozu’s famous static camera placement, and its marvellous use of colour.

For a Western audience at least the more naturalistic acting style makes Floating Weeds' more accessible than many of Ozu's more stylized films but above all it will be a considerable pleasure for anyone who appreciates the aesthetics of traditional Japanese domestic life.




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