Floating Weeds

A gorgeous film by Yasujirō Ozu, and fittingly given it’s a story about a theatre troupe, a showcase of fine acting talent. Ganjirō Nakamura plays a hammy actor paying a visit to an old flame and an illegitimate son who thinks he’s just an embarrassing uncle. It’s a very subtle performance, conveying the ironies of a man trying and failing to lead a business and a family, someone who expects authority but doesn’t earn it.

The title is entirely metaphorical, perhaps a way of evoking how exposed the itinerant actors are to the whims of fortune. But floating weeds tangle around each other and clump together, which is exactly what we see the characters do in the film. Nakamura has two families, the acting company and his former lover's household, and they intertwine in ways he doesn’t want but cannot prevent. His arrogance leads to him losing both, and having to set out again on his own.

Nakamura is backed up by a veritable who’s who of Japanese acting talent. Machiko Kyō (of Rashomon fame) gives a star turn as the jealous Sumiko, and Ayako Wakao (who will become Masumura’s favourite in the 60s) is stunning as the young actress who is a master of seduction. Ozu stalwarts Haruko Sugimura and Chishū Ryū also give fine performances in minor roles. And the three horny actors trying to chat up the town’s young ladies are great fun. This is one of Ozu’s most enjoyable films.

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