Floating Weeds (Ukigusa)

Sumptuous theatrical tale from Japan

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It’s hard not to like Yasujiro Ozu. His films are infuriatingly samey, his heroes interchangeable, his shot selection rigid and schematic, and his narratives hewn from the same melodramatic family turf. But damn, if he isn’t good at it.

Here, in 1959’s Floating Weeds (a remake of his own 1934 flick, The Story Of Floating Weeds), he plants us in a tiny fishing village in southern Japan during a heatwave. Enter ageing travelling thespian Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura) and his troupe of demoralised kabuki performers (‘Floating Weeds’ is a Japanese term for itinerant actors). The village’s sleepy equilibrium is instantly ruptured, and when Komajuro’s mistress Sumiko (Machiko Kyo) discovers that Komajuro’s ex-girlfriend and love-child run a local saki bar, she forces a world of harsh hidden truths to the surface. And, as with all Ozu films, this is just the start. For Floating Weeds unfolds with sumptuous cinematography, relentless low-angle camera work and artfully arranged character positions. All you can do is sit back and submit.


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