Ukikusa monogatari

Silent . Black and White . 86 minutes

Shochiku Kamata Studio

Written By

Ozu Yasujiro ('James Maki')
Ikeda Tadao


Mohara Hideo


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.


he 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.

Articles / Essays
Stories of Floating Weeds
by Donald Richie (Criterion)

A Story of Floating Weeds : Silent Volume
by Chris Edwards

Personal 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 and tragic.

Film Images

"Pillow Shots"
A clip from Story of Floating Weeds
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