Reviewer: David Gillespie – Official HCF Artist
Returning to one of his earlier works, A Story of Floating Weeds, Japanese legend Yasujiro Ozu creates a simple but heartfelt family drama revolving around the unearthing of family secrets and lies. With the aid of master cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, Floating Weeds is a triumph of composition, colour and visual beauty from the opening shots of a lighthouse taken from four different locations within the sleepy, seaside setting of the tale.
A theatre group led by Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura) arrive at remote fishing town with the intention of hosting a series of performances. While the rest of the cast promote their newest opus, the leader undertakes frequent visits to his former mistress called Oyoshi (Haruka Sugimura) and her grown up son, Kiyoshi (Hirosha Kawaguchi). Komajuro is so embarrassed by his profession that he has never revealed to Kiyoshi that he is his father, pretending to be an uncle .
When Sumiko (Machiko Kyo), the theatre group’s cruel lead actress and current mistress of Komajuro, learns of the family reunion, she becomes envious and confronts the father and son. Komajuro and Sumiko begin a vicious argument that leads to their breakup and the scorned actress seeking revenge. She pays a beautiful, young actress Kayo (Ayako Wakao) to seduce Kiyoshi and humiliate her lover. Things don’t go to plan for Sumiko when the young couple fall in love. Kamajuro is conflicted as to whether he leaves things to take their course or to reveal his true identity to Kiyoshi.
Having never watched a Japanese family drama that didn’t lead to multiple killings and dismemberment, it was a refreshing change to watch something as subtle and moving as this offering from Ozu. The pace is very slow with very little in the way of action, yet the exquisite cinematography and impressive performances make up for this.
Ganjiro Nakamura is captivating as the likeable but flawed ageing actor. His fiery and passionate relationship with Sumiko is in complete contrast to the loving and gentle one that he has with Oyoshi. Machiko Kyo (Sumiko) is equally impressive as the villain or catalyst of the piece. It is her actions that result in Kamajuro answering for the lies and deceptions of his past. However the lead actress is also vulnerable and insecure. When she discovers that her lover has a family and has deceived her, she responds in an instinctively aggressive and spiteful way. The sequence where the quarrelling couple trade insults between a wall of torrential rainfall is beautiful. Perhaps the only performance that does not pass muster is that of Hirosha Kaeaguchi as the son, Kiyoshi. He seems to be indifferent when told the shattering news that his father, whom he had believed to be dead, is standing in front of him.
Although Tokyo Story (1953) will be remembered as Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece, Floating Weeds is an incredible piece of work also. If you require a departure from serial killers, alien invasions and superheroes then look no further than this delightful drama.
- 2 discs
- Exclusively restored high-definition master presented in the film’s original aspect ratio, in 1080p on the Blu-ray
- Newly translated optional English subtitles
- Original Japanese theatrical trailer
- Illustrated booklet featuring the words of Ozu, rare archival imagery, and more.