A troupe of actors comes to town, short on funds and bedeviled by bad weather, so they can't put on shows. Kihachi is the troupe's leader. He steals off every day to visit Otsune (an ex-lover) and their son, Shinkichi, who believes his father is a long-dead civil servant. Kihachi has been paying Shinkichi's tuition, and he's now at university. Kihachi's lover, Otaka, the troupe's lead actress, learns Kihachi's secret and plots to ruin Shinkichi and humiliate Kihachi: she offers money to Otoki, the troupe's ingénue, to seduce Shinkichi. Soon the boy is head over heels, and Otoki finds herself with feelings for him. Can this end well or is tragedy at hand? Written by
My troupe's finally disbanded. No word from Shinkichi yet? Like father, like son. So fast with the girls. I'm finished this time.
I'll fix you a drink.
No sake for me.
Then you won't travel anymore? You can stay as long as you like. Shinkichi is old enough to know by now. He'll understand. He'll back sometime or toher. Let's live together like a family.
It isn't good to be alone all the time. Let's have a drink.
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This early career (1934) Yasujuro Ozu silent film is a personal favorite. A seminal work for Ozu, "A Story of Floating Weeds" is a remarkably modernist, concise film, and the story is powerfully moving. This picture is often argued as Ozu's first fully-realized, and it is an easy film to appreciate, with Ozu's quiet artistry on showcase throughout. (The patent imagery is here: laundry on lines, silent stairwells, passenger trains, hanging lights, etc.; as well as the simplistic, low-angle shooting style, resulting in a film that feels much more familiar to Ozu fans than its age would indicate. Established Ozu fans should notice some outliers, though, including realistic domestic violence and several moving dolly shots). The storyline involves a downtrodden traveling theater group, whose manager is reuninted with his estranged "nephew," (who is, in actuality, his son) and the young man's mother. What follows is a quiet, somber story of familial bonds, unrealizeable love, and the often impossible nature of personal happiness. It is also very much a film about the lower classes, whose plight is subject for this, Ozu's first metaphorical title. The "Floating Weeds" refers to duckweed, a floating plant often referenced in Japanese poetry, and it is emblematic of aimlessness, and the drifting lack of meaning in life. "A Story of Floating Weeds" is a movie about the flatsom and jetsom of Japanese society, whose destination is open to chance and whim. Perhaps equally importantly, "Floating Weeds" is a story about fathers and sons. It is timeless, fundamental stuff, and I'd argue some of Ozu's best.
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