Floating Weeds (1959)
October 1, 2023 7:35 AM - Subscribe

The head of a Japanese theatre troupe returns to a small coastal town where he left a son who thinks he is his uncle, and tries to make up for the lost time, but his current mistress grows jealous.
posted by ob1quixote (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is by far the best movie I ever had a hard time getting through awake. I had to grit my teeth through Daisies (1966), but it did not put me to sleep. I wound up watching this movie in three stints over the last couple of weeks because I kept drifting off.

It's an excellent picture, lovingly shot by Miyagawa and beautifully composed. It's full of those touches for which Ozu is justifiably famous, e.g. set in the summer, the little things that say "summer" in Japan like yukata, furin wind chimes, and mosquito coils are constantly on the margins of the movie.

The story is typical Ozu. Which is to say that it's actually relatively realistic except for the fact that everyone has fine manners. I think what made me somnolent when watching it is that it's so *comfortable*. Except that the story is about desperation and secrets and failure. Yet everyone just floats along, eventually winding up just where they need to be.

One thing that struck me especially in this picture is Ozu's famous low angle "tatami shot." Lewis Criswell speaks about it in terms of allowing the audience detachment from the events in the movie, but I think it has the opposite effect. Rather than showing events from the point of view of a seated adult, I think it's more like the point of view of a child. It lets people access their authentic selves and put themselves into the events depicted more fully.

I think that's the real value of Ozu's lexicon. By circumscribing what's happening in the frame, the viewer can actually go deeper.

In any event, don't take my inability to stay awake as a demerit. This is one of Ozu's best movies and it is well worth watching.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:38 AM on October 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

Ozu, for me, is one of the few storytellers to solve the problem of making interesting stories out of day-to-day life, with everyone involved trying to keep everything orderly (which is boring).

The price of the ticket is that his films often feel like nothing (and yes, I've drifted off to Floating Weeds more than once), but they compress in the memory like no other. You spend 2+ hours of people controlling their emotions and then, by the end, the emotional weight of what you have just seen is almost overwhelming. I can't think of many parallels, in film at least.

(Actually, one — Akira's Kurosawa's Dreams, which is made of the world's most static, almost glacial dreams, every one of which I remember 25 years later.)
posted by argybarg at 1:34 PM on October 1, 2023 [5 favorites]

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