Screening: 15 February 2006
Floating Weeds is a remake of a story Ozu first told in a 1934 silent film The Story of Floating Weeds. It tells the story of a raggle-taggle theatre troupe giving its final performances in a small fishing village. The cheerful music - composed by Kojun Saito - contrasts with the oppressive heat that pervades the village atmosphere giving a strange twist to the common theme of a circus coming to town. Here a travelling Kabuki theatre troupe arrives in the village, and as posters are distributed the troupe's publicist implores the prettiest women of the village to come to the performance. A secret identity and the subtleties of a close-knit group dominate the relationships of the film.
The secret identity conceit cannot last, of course but the way it breaks down is what fascinates. Despite ample opportunity to sink into farce, Ozu keeps the narrative real and relevant, both to the characters and the audience.
A masterpiece of world cinema or another inaccessible film you are told you should watch because it is art? Possibly neither. Floating Weeds is beautiful and the direction masterful and, whilst this may not find its way onto everyone's must-have list, it should be seen by everyone who enjoys the fabric of film. Each group of frames runs past the eye like a tapestry where no detail is insignificant and at times where the background assumes the role of central focus. If you are familiar with Ozu's work, primarily dealing with the middle-class mainstream, then this will stand out for its difference of subject but sheer quality of style.
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Of the fifty-four films that Ozu made between 1927 and 1962, only thirty-eight have survived.
Common weeds that float include: Duckweed; Watermeal; Water Lilies; Watershield and Water Lettuce.
Floating Weeds is available in a Criterion set, paired with his original 1934 silent film from which it was remade, A Story of Floating Weeds.
Tokyo Story (1953) is widely considered to be Ozu's masterpiece.
Machiko Kyo found fame when cast as the feminine lead in Kurosawa's Rashomon.