yet also likable in an almost equal measure at different stages during the two hours we spend with them) pervades a languid atmosphere, in which a sad but resilient attitude to the hardships of the present, for characters caught up in their own version of the past, is amplified by the most uncompromising version of the Yasujirô Ozu house style – a style which emphasises continuity through its complete lack of camera movement and rejection of transition effects for bridging scenes – fades, wipes, dissolves, etc -- leaving the film with a sense of passivity and stasis.
For all the apparent possibilities and expectations for change his characters might share, Ozu’s cinema favours incident over plot, dawning realisation over actual change in circumstances.
Kiyoshi, meanwhile, ostensibly unaware of the true basis of of his relationship with his mother’s slightly eccentric and over-chummy avuncular friend, dreams of leaving the sleepy port behind, and, with that in mind, is being trained in maths by the local postmaster in preparation for leaving for university.
Unfortunately, the increasing frequency of Komajuro’s absences from the troupe between shows comes to be noticed by his employees and eventually his current mistress, Sumiko, learns from one of the veteran actors (who has travelled with the master on many other sojourns across the country with the troupe, down the years), about Komajuro’s secret son, and of his former relationship with Oyoshi, the owner of the Sake drinking joint; jealous and fearful of her own precariousness in this situation, Sumiko hatches a cynical plot to split up this threateningly cosy makeshift family unit which potentially threatens the continuation of the troupe and therefore her own relationship with its owner, by forcing one of the younger, prettier female performers travelling with the theatre -- an actress called The relationship between Kayo and the virginal Kiyoshi becomes a serious one and the two of them plot to run away with each other, the previously conscientious Kiyoshi now willingly abandoning his hard-won studies in order to do so, apparently just as Sumiko had planned when she came up with the idea to pair the two off as part of her revenge on her master.
The company was founded in the late-eighteenth century, initially as a producer of live kabuki theatre; but it expanded its output to encompass movie production in the 1920s, soon abandoning the mannered stylisations and all-male yarō-kabuki conventions of traditional Japanese drama for its own version of the Hollywood star system during the silent era, which ushered in a mode of narrative expression much influenced by that which was familiar from American movies of the day, but which was still concerned with portraying the everyday lives of ordinary Japanese people.
Ozu’s work is, of course, renowned for its detailed dissection of family life, which it achieves through the delicate unwrapping and laying bare of character: the novelistic, in-depth exploration of inter-generational relationships between Japanese parents and their children, growing up in a country tinged with regret for a vanishing past even as it comes to grips with modernity.
Ozu unfolds this cauldron of previously unvoiced prejudices and emotions in his traditional un-showy, unmistakably direct yet subtle style, so that these people’s jealousy, bitterness, regret and self-deception emerges out of the deepest expressions of his characters' intrinsic being, rather than merely as motors for pursuing the next stage of a contrived developing action.
A stoic melancholy acceptance of their flaws (and all the characters are flawed in some way …
The illicit relationship between the two youngsters also reveals Komajuro’s less than flattering attitude towards the women who work for him as performers in the kabuki theatre plays: he speaks of Kiyoshi being “ruined” by the association and of the gentle Kayo as though she were inherently no better than a whore because of her stage-based profession, and this naturally leads to the inevitable confrontation between himself and Kiyoshi.Although Ozu wasn’t going to capitulate to that other new fifties trend: the craze for Cinema Scope - preferring to stick to the traditional “picture-frame” box image familiar to the Academy Ratio - Floating Weeds was a sumptuous spectacle of a film, that nevertheless, employed its colour intelligently and systematically, in selective artistic patterns.Ozu’s later films come to put increasingly less and less emphasis on the kind of overtly dramatic events that normally drive a film’s plot forward.Nakamura’s comic displays of over-enthusiasm, which erupt out of his desire to engage a reticent Kiyoshi in numerous father-son bonding activities -- such as fishing or endless games of Go (which he plays because Kiyoshi is keen on the game, not because he has any particular aptitude for it); his need for excuses to spend his free time with the boy, while being anxious to maintain the secrecy that surrounds their relationship and not reveal who he really is to his son, makes for a gentle, relaxed form of humour, etched with regret.Contrasting the precariousness of theatre life via the troupe’s dependency on achieving a certain degree of popular success with its show in order to enable Komajuro to earn enough money to be able to afford to move on to the next town, lest his performers become “stranded” in one place, and setting that situation next to the ‘master’s’ desire also to experience a simulacrum of settled family life, but still always with the option of one day moving on, bit by bit brings out the sensibilities of each of the main players: Komajuro’s former mistress Oyoshi, gently appears to accept the father of her child’s causal, on-off relationship with their son, while harbouring the secret wish that he will eventually decide to stay put and the three of them might one day settle down as a proper family.
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This latest remake broke new ground in many ways though, mainly related to the involvement in its production of the president of Daiei Studios, Masaichi Nagata, who backed the picture after work on it had stalled at Shochiku.