It was towards the end of his career that Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu revisited this story, a story that he'd first filmed 25 years earlier as a silent film. The film was shot in color by legendary cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, perhaps most known to North American audiences for the film Rashomon.
The story is quite simple. Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura) is an aging actor who arrives at a seaport with his kabuki troupe only to be reunited with his former lover, Oyoshi (Haruki Sugimura), and his illegitimate son Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi). Of course, this development doesn't go over with his current mistress, Sumiko (Machiko Kyo). While the story is simple, it is a beautifully told and powerfully brought to life story in the hands of the always masterful Ozu. While many seem to know Japanese cinema because of its samurai tales and/or contemporary horror, Floating Weeds
offers up an alternative story filled with rich humanity and compelling characters. While the film has been available on DVD through the Criterion Collection, Eureka Entertainment's Masters of Cinema is offering the film its world premiere on Blu-ray.
What a premiere!
Many people know Ozu through his Tokyo Story,
but the filmmaker lived out his career as one of Japanese cinema's most heartfelt and peaceful filmmakers. His films possess an almost meditative quality about them, though this shouldn't be confused with telling a story. Ozu tells stories, he just tells them without the histrionics and unnecessary dramatics so often associated with American cinema.
In fact, I know very few lovers of cinema who don't embrace Ozu or, at the very minimum, have a deep appreciation for his works. Floating Weeds
is a film that in America would have been turned into a highly dramatic and conflicted soap opera style film. To do so, however, would have forced action that didn't need to occur and would have ignored the quieter aspects of the story. Ozu, who passed away in 1963 before he ever really became known here in the United States, was a patient filmmaker with a rather strict sense of framing that didn't so much place the audience within the story as it did allow the authentic story to unfold with the audience given a ringside seat.
There's a difference.
So many filmmakers would feel compelled to add special effects or trick camera work, but Ozu tended to trust his stories and his actors so much that the camera sits still and observes the world around it. The cast is a true ensemble here, not just amongst themselves but alongside the film's production quality and even a spirited and evocative original score from Kojun Saito. Ozu was, quite simply, an innovative and deeply felt filmmaker who broke rules of cinema that needed to be broken. Floating Weeds
is a marvelous example of his work, though it would be a mistake to simply sample Ozu's work without truly investing oneself in finding and viewing as many films as possible from this under-appreciated filmmaker whose brilliance has only unfolded in the years since his death.
For more information, visit the Eureka Entertainment website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic