Starring: Ganjirô Nakamura, Machiko Kyô, Ayako Wakao
Director: Yasujirô Ozu
Running Time: 119 mins
Floating Weeds is a Japanese film about a theatre troupe who returns to a small seaside town for the first time in years, where the head of the team reunites with his son, who thinks he is his uncle, while his new mistress gets in the way of his attempts to make up for lost time.
While I wouldn’t peg Floating Weeds as legendary director Yasujirô Ozu’s most moving work, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see, as he takes a different approach to detailing the lives of ordinary people in enthralling fashion. With a little more tumultuous drama than his typical slice-of-life style, Ozu makes for an entertaining watch with Floating Weeds, slowly building pent-up emotion as the story develops throughout.
Let’s start off with what really works about this film, and that’s of course Ozu’s directing. This film is actually a remake of a 1932 work of his, with an updated post-war setting, and a little bit more of a jump to an older perspective on things, as is often the case with most of Ozu’s later films.
As is always the case with the director, there’s no ignoring the immersive and genuine nature with which he directs a film, and Floating Weeds is just as full of that style as any other, with a beautiful and intimate look at life in a small town, and how the natural order of things is interrupted so dramatically by the arrival of outsiders.
In that, the typical generation clash that Ozu portrays isn’t quite as present, but there’s still a clash of cultures as the town’s social landscape changes irreparably with the arrival of the theatre troupe, and that’s what leads into the film’s tumultuous drama, which makes for a great story throughout.
Although it takes a little while to really double down and focus on one main story, the development of that story makes for riveting viewing, as the tension and emotion spills over when the troupe leader’s new mistress becomes frustrated with him, while he attempts to spend time with his estranged, and still secret, son.
It’s an unorthodox story that also makes for unorthodox romance, but Ozu doesn’t follow any formulaic lines in that regard, with genuinely surprising twists and unexpected developments completely changing the outlook of the story, and keeping you engrossed right to the finish.
Another big part of what makes the film so entertainig and intriguing at times is the performances, which are just as great across the board. Again, while the film doesn’t follow Ozu’s typical slice-of-life style throughout, it’s full of great wit and energy, and that’s evident in all of the performances, with leads like Ganjirô Nakamura and Machiko Ryô balancing their characters’ dramatic depth with a likable energy that really helps to make the film an endearing watch.
Overall, then, I really rather liked Floating Weeds. It’s not quite Ozu’s best work, and takes a different approach to storytelling than most of his later films, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without intrigue and drama, with a great story that’s furthered by strong performances across the board, and typically immersive and affecting direction from Ozu, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.