A Story of Floating Weeds (“Ukikusa monogatari”)
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Kihachi is the actor-manager of a traveling theater company that plays the backwaters of Japan. The shows they put on are comically bad but seem to entertain rural audiences. Kihachi decides to stay in the mountain town where an old flame lives so he can visit with his illegitimate son, whom he has high hopes for but who thinks of the father as an “uncle”. Kihachi’s current mistress is consumed with jealousy and plots to have a young actress seduce the son to foil the father’s plans.
That’s about all there is to the plot but, this being an Ozu film, plot is not all that important. Instead, this is a character study focusing on how the different characters cope with relationships, failure, and aging. It is also quite funny when it looks at the different members of the company, including some low humor aimed at a bed-wetting 9-year-old who ineptly plays the dog in the show. This is arguably his best and most mature silent film, though I personally prefer 1932’s I Was Born, But ….
Kihachi is irrascible and strikes several people, including women who do not fight back, which could be disturbing to modern viewers. The violence is not graphic or prolonged. This film was remade in 1959 as Floating Weeds, Ozu’s first color film.