A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Story of Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu, 1934)

Tomio Aoki in A Story of Floating Weeds
Kihachi: Takeshi Sakamoto
Otsune: Choko Iida
Shinkichi: Koji Mitsui
Otaka: Rieko Yagumo
Otoki: Yoshiko Tsubouchi
Tomi-boh: Tomio Aoki
Tomibo's Father: Reiko Tani

Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Screenplay: Tadao Ikeda, Yasujiro Ozu
Cinematography: Hideo Shigehara
Art direction: Tatsuo Hamada

This is the first, silent version of a film that Ozu remade with sound and in color in 1959, when it was released as Floating Weeds. Yes, 1934 is late to be making silent films, but Ozu was following the lead of the Japanese film industry, which didn't switch to sound until 1931 -- and Ozu waited till 1936 to make a talkie. It's the story (written by Tadao Ikeda and Ozu himself under his pseudonym James Maki) of Kihachi Ichikawa, the head of a troupe of traveling players who find themselves in a village where Kihachi has a former mistress, Otsune, with whom he had a son, Shinkichi. The now almost-grown son has always known Kihachi as "Uncle," because Kihachi has kept his parentage secret, not wanting him to follow in his footsteps as an actor. But when Otaka, an actress in the troupe and Kihachi's most recent mistress, discovers the secret, she decides to take revenge by asking a younger actress, Otoki, to seduce Shinkichi. The revenge backfires when Otoki falls in love with the young man. As usual, Ozu's sympathetic view of human relationships carries the film, giving depth to the somewhat slight story. And the glimpses of the world of the traveling players is both fascinating and funny. The lovely cinematography is by Hideo Shigehara, who filmed and sometimes edited many of Ozu's pre-war movies.

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