Floating Weeds – Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Floating Weeds - Review

There isn’t much to say about Floating Weeds that hasn’t already been said. Over the decades that have passed since Yasujirō Ozu remade his own silent film, A Story of Floating Weeds, many a superlative has passed the lips of movie aficionados across the globe. Quite simply, Ozu’s modest story of a troupe of travelling players to a coastal town in 1950s Japan is a timeless tale of humanity portrayed with poetic simplicity and a captivating sense of austerity.

Essentially playing out as a “week in the life of” film, Komajuro Arashi and his troupe of travelling actors arrive at a small fishing village home to his former lover and their son, Kiyoshi, who has grown up believing Komajuro to be his Uncle. When his current mistress, Sumiko, discovers Komajuro is visiting a old flame, she becomes increasingly jealous and hatches a conniving plan to humiliate Komajuro via the naïve heart of his young son.

For a film from 1959, it looks incredible.

For a film from 1959, it looks incredible.

It’s a simple story, and one that you could easily find in a Coronation Street omnibus on a Sunday. And while it’s not particularly exciting or overly thrilling, Floating Weeds is utterly captivating in its simplicity. Rudimentary, banal chatter between the locals of the village only enhances the reality Yasujirō Ozu is portraying. His fixed camera positions lay sole focus on the drama unfolding, relying on the story he is telling rather than the panache of filmmaking to connect with his audience. The performances are understated, the music is quaintly subtle and the colour of the film stock natural and beautiful. It’s poetic how it all comes together, and what we get is a truly stunning piece of cinema that is still relevant even after 54 years.



What’s so masterful about Yasujirō Ozu is his effortless expression of deeply poignant, and personal, issues. As briefly mentioned, it is film making at its most basic (it is from 1959 after all), but the transparency this creates is astonishing and the film itself becomes profoundly intimate. Any one-to-one confrontation is filmed in such a way where you can’t help but be enthralled. The characters stare deep into the lens when in an intense exchange, and their dialogue becomes emotionally arresting as a result. It’s pretty exquisite stuff, and a prime example of filmmaking and raw story telling as a thoroughly engaging art form. Very much an expression of human nature, Floating Weeds reflects the rhythm of life organically as it finely balances everyday, conversational humour with a grand and intense drama.

Despite being from the other side of the world, the film transcends all sorts of national barriers. It just feels a relevant story to anyone. Of course the customs of 1950s Japan aren’t familiar to someone from, say, 1990s Stevenage, but its tale is one of humanity, one of conflict, jealousy and love. These things are all pertinent no matter what continent you’re from, and what decade you live in.

5

Floating Weeds is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray as part of the Masters of Cinema range, and can be purchased for your viewing pleasure here. 


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