Machiko Kyo and Ganjiro Nakamura in Floating Weeds
A remake of Ozu's 1934 silent, A Story of Floating Weeds, which adds not only the technological advances of sound and color, but also shows the maturing of Ozu's sensibility. It's clear that the director feels a deep identification with Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura), the "master" of the group of traveling players, who finds himself worried not only about his responsibility to the actors but also about his responsibility to his unacknowledged son, Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi), now that the young man is of an age to make the kind of mistakes Komajuro has made. The wonderful Machiko Kyo also brings great depth to the role of Sumiko, an actress in the troupe and Komajuro's current mistress. When she susses out the fact that Komajuro has a former mistress, Oyoshi (Haruko Sugimura), in the town where they're currently performing, and that Kiyoshi is his son by Oyoshi, she takes revenge by having the pretty young actress Kayo (Ayako Wakao) seduce the young man. It's a fairly conventional plot, to be sure, devised for the earlier film by Ozu and Tadao Ikeda, but it reverberates beautifully with the film's theme: a celebration of acting and all that it involves. Komajuro, after all, has been playing the role of Kiyoshi's "uncle," with Oyoshi's aid. And Kayo's acting as the seductress turns into a real love affair. Above all, though, it's the quiet mastery of film that shines through every frame of Ozu's work, made magical by Kazuo Miyagawa's cinematography and Hideo Matsuyama's production design. One of the great works by one of film's great humanists.