OF FLOATING WEEDS
. Black and White . 86 minutes
Shochiku Kamata Studio
Ozu Yasujiro ('James Maki')
Sakamoto Takeshi (Kihachi)
Iida Choko (Otsune)
Mitsui Hideo (Shinkichi)
Yagumo Rieko (Otaka)
Tsubouchi Yoshiko (Otoki)
Kozo Tokkan (Tomibo)
Tani Reiko (Tomibo's Father)
An itinerant kabuki troupe, led by aging actor
Kihachi, arrives in a small town. He frequents
the local cafe owner, who is an old flame, and
with whom he fathered a son, Shinkinchi. Kihachi's
jealous mistress, Otaka pays a young actress in
the troupe to seduce Shinkichi, but the young
pair fall in love. When Kihachi finds out, he
throws a fit. When Shinkichi discovers Kihachi's
true identity, he cannot forgive him. Meanwhile,
the troupe suffers a loss and is disbanded. Kihachi
embarks on an unknown future with Otaka.
Thoughts from Ozu
This is a film that went down well. Although
some termed this my "Kihachi Series",
I disagree because men named Kihachi tend to have
the same traits. At that time, everyone around
me was making talkies, while I hung onto silents.
Still, since 1932, for three years running, my
silents including this film, were selected Best
Film by Kinema Junpo magazine. However, I wasn't
to lucky the next year.
32nd film, shot from September to November of
1934. The existing screenplay shows a different
Chinese character for the title than the one used
in the film itself, and it is indicated that this
character should be read as "Ukikusa"
not "Ukigusa".The remaining print is
a silent version, but the film was originally
a sound version. This was the second time, after
Until the Day We Meet Again (Mata Au
Hi Made, 1932), that Ozu made a sound version.
Exceptionally, there was even a main song, "Journey
in the Drizzling Rain" ("Shiguratabi").
This song was played in the scene when it rains
into the dressing room. Probably the music was
considered to increase the commercial value of
the film. Again, the main character is Kihachi.
Kihachi is not always the same person, but all
Kihachis have an identical character, so Ozu explained.
This time, Kihachi is an itinerant actor. At last,
a protagonist in Ozu's films leaves Tokyo, leading
a wandering life without a permanent residence.
Family and family intentions are refused, and
even the substitute family, the actors troupe,
breaks up in the end. The Kihachi of Passing
Fancy tries to separate from Tokyo, but is
brought back by its gravitational power. The Kihachi
in Story of Floating Weeds was adapted
from George Fitzmaurice's The Barker (1928).
Compared to Ozu's whole work, this film has strong
melodramatic touches. The final clash between
Kihachi and his son Shinkichi is taken from Kan
Kikuchi's novel Father Returns (Chichi
Kareru). Kihachi and many of the players wear
kimonos throughout the film. This gives a strange
visual impression, since up to then Ozu's protagonists
not only lived in Tokyo, but all wear Western
clothes. Depending on a traditional, anti-modern
form, this story certainly leads to a time-crossing
feeling of security. The film was damaged by the
censors. After a rendezvous with Shinkichi, Otoki
comes home and takes off her socks (tabi). This
was considered as too erotic. Ozu himself said
that everything went comparatively fine with this
film, and that he liked it quite a lot.
of Floating Weeds
by Donald Richie (Criterion)
Story of Floating Weeds : Silent Volume
by Chris Edwards
Thoughts and Comments
Repeat viewings of A Story of Floating Weeds
has really given me greater appreciation of it.
I initially considered it one of my least favorite
Ozu films, but have grown to appreciate the film
as one of his pivotal achievements of his silent
period. The film does mark a key movement that
would later define his mastery. A Story of
Floating Weeds is one of the earliest to examine
not only the family, but the disappointment or
deconstruction of the Japanese family. This would
be a theme that would become definitive throughout
his career. A Story of Floating Weeds is
among Ozu's more melodramatic films, yet the melodrama
is presented with irony and realism through Ozu's
essential focus of character over plot. Everything
comes together beautifully as Ozu sets up the
emotional expectations before quickly changing
them again to capture a realistic emotional response
and the authentic feelings and cycle of living.
For that the film is successful and remains and
interesting early achievement of Ozu's career.
However more then just its influence, the film
embodies Ozu mastery way of taking a simple melodramatic
narrative and subtly transforming it into something
deeper and even more spiritual. By floating
along the landscapes of Japan and through simple
and quiet little details, Ozu transforms the film
into one of feeling- a feeling that is both happy