“What’s wrong with seeing my son? My own son, mind you!”
When touring in a seaside village, the manager (Ganjiro Nakamura) of an itinerant acting troupe visits his former lover (Haruko Sugimura) and their grown son Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi), who believes Komajuro (Nakamura) is his uncle. Komajuro’s mistress (Machiko Kyo) becomes jealous when she learns about this, and asks her colleague (Ayako Wakao) to seduce Kiyoshi — much to Komajuro’s distress.
One of the final films made by the prolific Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu before his death in 1963, Floating Weeds remains a critical favorite, with Roger Ebert notoriously placing it among his personal “top 10”. A remake of Ozu’s 1934 silent film The Story of Floating Weeds (which I haven’t seen, and which isn’t listed in Peary’s book), the storyline reveals Ozu’s enduring interest in the drama of familial relations, embedded within the specific context of a struggling Kabuki theatrical troupe (the phrase “floating weeds” is, according to Ebert, a Japanese term for itinerant actors). The actors are all fine in their respective roles, with Kyo (perhaps best known for her role as the violated wife in Kurosawa’s Rashomon) giving a particularly nuanced performance as Nakamura’s jealous, vulnerable mistress.
Fans of Ozu’s distinctive directorial style — including low, static camera angles; exclusive use of a 50 mm lens; no fades or dissolves between shots; and the steady incorporation of pillow shots between scenes — will find much here to enjoy and admire. The leisurely pace of the film — punctuated by fits of violence and melodrama — allows much time for contemplation and appreciation of the vibrant color scheme and authentic seaside settings. Yet while I was curious to learn how things would resolve between Nakamura and his son, his lover, his former lover, and his son’s lover, the storyline moves awfully slowly, wandering aimlessly at times to focus on numerous (perhaps too many?) side-plots. With that said, most film fanatics will surely want to check out this highly regarded film by Ozu, so I’m strongly recommending it for at least one-time viewing.
Note: Of Ozu’s 54 films, Peary curiously only lists four in his Guide for the Film Fanatic. All — Late Spring (1949), Early Summer (1951), and Tokyo Story (1953) — have now been reviewed on this site.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Haruko Sugimura as Oyoshi
- Machiko Kyo as Sumiko
- Ganjiro Nakamura as Komajuro
- Vibrant cinematography
- Fine use of authentic seaside locales
No, though it’s strongly recommended. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)