Everyone understands what it is like to have a family. Yasujiro Ozu was a man whose films made you feel what it's like to be part of a family. Most of his films focus on domestic family life and how changes within that family change relationships between each other forever. Film critic Roger Ebert once stated, "Sooner or later, everyone who loves movies comes to Ozu," as Ozu's films are probably some of the most gentlest and poignant stories I have ever witnessed within the cinema. Like all of Ozu's films, Floating Weeds pacing is slow or as critic David Bordwell prefers to describe it, "calm," and his style is legendary because many believe Ozu didn't have any style at all. Most of his shots were low and stationary shots and his visual strategy was very simple; which some critics consider profound. His camera is usually three feet above the floor and he almost never moves it. Every single shot has an intended composition and the only movement you see in most Ozu films is characters walking in and out of rooms, not the camera itself. Most of Ozu's films focused around weddings, parents and children, growing older, death and illness and eventually living and dying alone. And yet, his film Floating Weeds was a much different type of Ozu film than the norm. First of all Floating Weeds was a remake of his 1934 silent film A Story of Floating Weeds which was when first released Ozu's most successful film critically and financially. Secondly, it was one of the few films that he decided to shoot in beautiful Technicolor. Third, the story also shifted away from lonely spouses, weddings and father's trying to wed off their fathers. Floating Weeds told a complex story about the relationship of a father and son in which throughout the years the son was raised to always believe his father was his uncle and that his father was originally dead. The father is an actor who leads a traveling acting troupe that performs cut-rate kabuki in the provinces of Japan and within every few years or so he comes to visit his son when his traveling troupe are scheduled to perform in the area. The actor is very proud of his son, but he is embarrassed about his acting profession believing that his son is better off not knowing who is father really is and instead wants him to get a good education and do something more respectful and intellectual with his life. Floating Weeds is considered one of Ozu's best works and is film critic Roger Ebert's top ten greatest films of all time in which Ebert performs a very splendid audio commentary on the Criterion DVD of the film; which is a must to listen to. Subtle, lyrical, and delicately bittersweet, Floating Weeds offers an excellent introduction to the cinema of Yasujiro Ozu—one of the greatest of all Japanese filmmakers, and until recently in the West, one of the least known.
The opening establishing shots are of a white lighthouse in the background as a white wine bottle is sitting on the beach in the foreground with old rusted boats sitting on land. The film starts during a hot summer in 1958 at a seaside town in the Inland Sea where a troupe of travelling theatre of men, woman, and children arrive by ship, headed by the troupe's lead actor and owner, Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura)Komajuro Arashi, his mistress and leading actress Sumiko. After arriving several of the troupe members like Kichi, Senta, Kiyosha and Yatazo go around the village and walk into homes and businesses to promote their kabuki acts while several kids in the village excitedly follow them.
Many of these actors are also looking for potential mates during their stay and Yatazo asks the children following him if they have any pretty sisters of age. Kiyosha eventually comes across a barber shop and is greatly attracted to the barber's daughter while Yatazo unfortunately meets a not so attractive woman who seems greatly interested in him. The theater owner and impresario (who is played by Ozu's usual leading man Chishû Ryû) happily gives the troupe shelter in his cramped living quarters upstairs from his apartment. Once Komajuro is settled in he asks Sumiko to bring him his kimono because he has to visit a patron. Before leaving the theatre owner arrives to welcome Komajuro and his troupe with Komajuro saying that the last time they performed was around twelve years ago after the surrender of the war. Komajuro and the theatre owner talk about old times and of fellow past actors who have died, one in particular is an actor named Tatsunosuke whose daughter Kayo now is part of the troupe.
Later that day Komajuro makes his way into town passing by fellow townspeople as he heads to his former mistress, Oyoshi, who runs a small eatery in the town. When Komajuro arrives Oyoshi invites him in for sake. Komajuro asks how her son Kiyoshi is doing and she tells him he just finished school last year and is currently working in the post office to save up for a trade school and study electronics. Oyoshi knows when her son leaves for schooling she'll be all alone but it's for her son's own good. "What does he know, I mean...about me. He thinks his father's dead. And that I'm just your brother?" Komajuro asks Oyoshi. Oyoshi is silent for a moment and then asks Komajuro if he feels lonely because of Kiyoshi not knowing he is his father and Komajuro says, "Can't help it. I'm not worth much. Let's not talk about it. Let it stay this way."
Kiyoshi arrives home and sees his supposed uncle. "Oh...hello uncle! I shouldn't come home sooner," he says. Komajuro cannot believe how much Kiyoshi has grown up and follows him up to his room. Kiyoshi asks how long he'll be staying and Komajuro says "As long as my show draws. A year, maybe." Komajuro is curious in what Kiyoshi has done and when Kiyoshi says he wants to attend one of his uncles shows Komajuro tells him it's not for him and isn't very high-class. Kiyoshi asks Komajuro to show better plays than but Komajuro believes audiences today don't understand the good plays. Komajuro asks him for the two of them to go fishing in the next few days and Kiyoshi agrees. Komajuro heads back downstairs and continues his sake with Oyoshi. "Very logical," he tells Oyoshi, "He argued me down. Very wise. Very brainy."
After one of the troupe's shows Kiyosha shows Senti the barbers daughter attending the show while they peer out through the curtain, looking for cute girls. After a slightly disappointing and slow opening show Komajuro is back stage with Sumiko and he tells her he believes the shows will pick up and get busier. Later on after the show one Yatazo promises Senta to meet him at a village home and he'll introduce him to another woman. When when Senti arrives to meet the other woman we come to the realization it was the unattractive woman from earlier and it greatly disappoints Senta. "Though all the world betrays me! I want some sake. Hurry up," he says as he decides to drink and accept it. Kiyosha goes to see the barber's daughter but she isn't very when he tries to pick her up and she yells out for her mother. When her mother walks in Kiyosha lies and says he walked in to get a shave with his plan unfortunately not going as he originally wanted.
The next day Komajuro and Kiyoshi are out near the ledge of the ocean fishing. Kiyoshi criticizes Komajuro's play and tells Komajuro that his acting was overdone and that he really mugged it up telling him that the character seemed unreal. Komajuro changes the subject and asks Kiyoshi about going to college saying, "Nothing's better than studying. But your mother'll be lonely. Imagine how she'll feel. Think of her." Back at the living quarters Sumiko asks the other actors where Komajuro is. Kiyosha tells her he saw him walking with a young mail clerk when he was at the barbers. Sumiko asks Kiyosha what happened to his face and Kiyosha tells her he was accidentally cut by the barber. When Komajuro arrives home he lies to Sumiko and tells her he was out with some of the boys but she bluntly asks him who the young man was that was with him. Komajuro says that it was one of his patrons but she says to him that she knows it was a mail clerk.
Sumiko is getting suspicious with Komajuro lying to her and Komajuro laughs knowing she's jealous that he might be running around on her, but assures her he's not especially because of his age. Sumiko starts to do her own investigating and questions one of the troupe's named Roku who has worked and known Komajuro for years and who has come to this town with him many years ago. Sumiko finally get an answer from Roku that Komajuro has an old girlfriend in this town and Sumiko is determined to found out who this mysterious lover is. Before another show Sumiko starts questioning Komajuro backstage while the two are applying make-up. Sumiko starts to become difficult and causes a commotion. Roku later points out Komajuro's mysterious lover Oyoshi in the audience from behind the curtain.
The show eventually gets rained out and so Komajuro decides to head to Oyoshi eatery and play a game of go with Kiyoshi. Sumiko eventually makes a visit to Oyoshi's eatery and asks Oyoshi for some sake. She than says, "Tell me. Is Master Komajuro here? I would like to see him." Oyoshi goes to receive Komajuro and when he runs down to see who called on him he is shocked to find Sumiko there. He asks what she wants and she says, "So the lady here was your important patron?" She confronts Oyoshi as Komajuro tries to stop her. Sumiko walks up to Oyoshi and says, "I must thank you for all your attentions to him. Don't pretend not to know." When Kiyoshi comes down stairs to see what the commotion is Sumiko asks him if he is Komajuro's son and who his father is. Komajuro grabs Sumiko and drags her out of Oyoshi's home as Kiyoshi looks at his mother confused. Back at the living quarters Komajuro has an argument with Sumiko while she stands outside in the pouring rain and he stands under the roof of the apartment.
He yells at Sumiko calling her a prized fool saying, "How dare you interfere. Stop meddling! You have no say in this matter. What's wrong with seeing my son?" Sumiko calls Komajuro an ingrate and tells him he couldn't do nothing without her while he says how she used to be a common whore and a beggar before he took her in the troupe. "I turned you into an actress...remember! You ungrateful wretch...lower than an animal. I can get along all by myself without any help from you. I'm through with you! I forbid you at that house. My son is different from you, mind you. He belongs to a higher class. Don't forget that, you fool!"
The next day the troupe are worried not only because of the tension between Komajuro and Sumiko but because the manager that helps fund their travels suddenly left and abandoned them. Backstage before a show Sumiko manipulates Kayo to do her a favor and see Kiyoshi a boy who works at the post office and to lead him on a bit; without Kayo knowing the intentions behind Sumiko's plan. "I have yet to see a man who wouldn't say yes to you," Sumiko tells her as she gives her some money and eventually Kayo agrees to do it.
The next day Kayo arrives to the post office and sees Kiyoshi. Kiyoshi says how he recognizes her from the stage and when Kayo gives him a note asking Kiyoshi to come outside and meet her Kiyoshi is intrigued by her proposition and eventually follows her outside and into the street. Kayo asks Kiyoshi to come visit her tomorrow night after the show and leaves leaving Kiyoshi bewildered. When the next evening arrives Kiyoshi is contemplating on taking up Kayo's offer and eventually decides to go, lying to his mother and telling her he needs to drop by the post office for some unfinished work. When Kiyoshi arrives to the theatre he sees Kayo outside waiting for him and she lures him inside. She thanks him for coming and leans over to kiss him. He stands in the dark still standoffish but eventually gives into her charm and kisses her back.
A few days pass and Kichi, Senta, Kiyosha and Yatazo are on the beach laying in the sun and enjoying the ocean. They are still worried about their manager abandoning them and the group is deeply worried that they might be stranded like they have been before in the past. Kichi looks up to see a plane overhead and says, "Look at that plane. Come over here and drop us some beer." Kiyoshi and Kayo are also alone together and Kayo asks him, "Can we go on seeing each other every day like this? What about your work?" Kiyoshi says he is on a leave of absence and Kayo says how her show had unfortunately flopped and how the troupe are now finished. Kiyoshi takes her hand and asks her to stay in town with him and Kayo says, "I'm not really a good girl. Not good enough for you. I was just leading you on. I didn't know anything about you. Miss Sumiko asked me to. I was supposed to make you fall for me." Kiyoshi says that it doesn't matter how it all began and still likes her but she pulls away. Kiyoshi grabs for Kayo one more time and the two embrace and kiss.
At the eatery Oyoshi asks Komajuro what has become of the manager's disappearance. Komajuro doesn't know and doesn't want to take advantage of the impresario's kindness by having him and his troupe staying at the impresario's apartment longer than he promised. "It's good when it's good but when we get stranded...It's a terrible profession. Isn't Kiyoshi late?" he asks. Oyoshi says Kiyoshi's been late for the last couple of days and is probably with the postmaster but Komajuro wants to spend as much time with him as he can before he leaves.
Oyoshi asks Komajuro if he is worried Sumiko might tell Kiyoshi that he is his father, but Komajuro believes Sumiko won't come back and bother them again. Oyoshi than asks, "So, he's to go on thinking you're his uncle?" Komajuro says that he must remain his uncle for life or Kiyoshi will be hurt. That evening Komajuro takes a stroll out around the town and comes across Kiyoshi and Kayo alone together and quickly hides so he isn't seen. He heads back to his apartment quarters waiting for Kayo to arrive home and when she does he asks her to come to him. He asks her who she was seeing and when she doesn't speak up he smacks her. "Never mind who I was seeing. Leave me alone," Kayo says. Komajuro asks what she is trying to do to his son and says, "I know what a slut like you would try." Kayo says that it's natural for him to think that of her but she is than forced to reveal Sumiko's plot of her seducing his son. Komajuro is furious and orders Kayo to bring Sumiko there at once.
When Sumiko arrives Komajuro slaps her saying, "You slut. You wanted to ruin my son? I told you to lay off, didn't I?" Sumiko mocks Komajuro and sarcastically says how his son is great being with a mistress. "Like father, like son," Sumiko says and Komajuro grabs her and starts to hit her several more times. Komajuro says to Sumiko how he never wants to see her again and demands that she leaves. She explains that he can't do that to her and since they're stranded they should stop quarrelling, but he is fed up and demands her to leave and also Kayo to leave as well.
Kichi, Senta, and Yatazo in the meantime loafing certain women in the town and are overstating their welcome. When Senta and Yatazo start to talk about maybe stealing Master' Komajuro's money and splitting Kichi gets angry and tells them how wrong it is for them to conjure ideas of stealing from their boss; with Senta and Yatazo eventually feel bad of even mentioning the idea. Eventually the troupe realizes Kichi himself is a fraud when he several days later steals some of Komajuro's money and supplies and splits. While drinking sake with his fellow actors Komajuro asks for their forgiveness for putting them in this unfortunate predicament and leaving them stranded and broke. Many of them discuss leaving and going their separate ways to find work. Komajuro wishes all his actors well and when Senta suggests they should celebrate instead of making it more of a wake they invite Sumiko to join the celebration even though it is awkward between her and Komajuro.
After saying his final farewell to his troupe family Komajuro heads to Oyoshi's eatery. "Were in a mess" he tells her when arriving. "We've broken up. The impresario tried to help me out, but it was all in vain." When he asks where Kiyoshi is Oyoshi tells him she thought he was with him because Kiyoshi received a note earlier asking for Komajuro to see him. Komajuro believes his son eloped with Kayo and that his son's life is now ruined. While Kiyoshi is out with Kayo she believes it would be better if Kiyoshi returned home and went to college like he originally planned because Kayo doesn't believe she is a good enough woman for him. Kiyoshi loves Kayo though and wants to take her to his mother and tell her of their love.
Komajuro and Oyoshi are waiting for the arrival of their son with Komajuro saying, "I thought he didn't take after me. I'm afraid I was to optimistic about the whole thing." Oyoshi believes he will come back and when he does she wants Komajuro to finally reveal Kiyoshi the truth to Kiyoshi because he is old enough to understand. "He's bound to find out sooner or later," she says. "Tell him everything." Komajuro says, "And make this place my home...uh?" Oyoshi wishes he would than stay for good and Komajuro agrees.
When Kiyoshi finally arrives home he says to his mother, "I want to ask you something." Kiyoshi than brings in Kayo and Komajuro is furious calling Kayo a slut and smacking her. Kiyoshi pulls Komajuro off her saying, "Don't uncle. She's apologizing." Komajuro starts to slap Kiyoshi and when he goes after Kayo again Kiyoshi throws Komajuro down. "Do you know who this is...He's your father," says Oyoshi suddenly. "Your real father. Apologize to him." Kiyoshi says, "I see...yes. Just as I thought. Mother, you told me my father died when I was little. I believed it. I still believe it. I don't want a father. I don't need one." Oyoshi tries to explain to Kiyoshi that his father didn't want him to know he was an itinerant actor's son because he wanted him to study hard and become somebody. "So he worked hard and sent me the money for your schooling," Oyoshi tells her son. Kiyoshi asks his father why he finally decided to show up all of a sudden and why tell him all of this now. Komajuro doesn't know what to say and Kiyoshi says to his mother and father, "You two are both selfish. I don't want a father. Go away. Go away! Get going!" Kiyoshi than runs upstairs upset as Kayo apologizes to Komajuro saying she had no idea about any of this.
"I'm afraid he's right," Komajuro says. "Very natural too. You can't suddenly show up out of nowhere and then try to be a father. On second thought I won't settle down. It'll be better. Much better for us all. You see, I'm going to turn over a new leaf. Let me leave tonight as though I'm still his uncle. Next time I come back here, I'll be a good actor he can be proud of. Let me look forward to such a day. Then we'll celebrate my success and be happy." Before Komajuro leaves Kayo asks her master to take her with him saying, "I'll work hard to help you! I can't leave you like this. Please. Master, I'm begging you." Komajuro instead asks Oyoshi if she can be good to look after Kayo saying to Kayo, "I'm sorry I scolded you. Forgive me. Help Kiyoshi to make good. I'm counting on you. Please."
Kayo runs up and begs Kiyoshi to see his father before he departs and when Kiyoshi runs downstairs and asks his mother where his uncle is she tells him he left the road. Oyoshi tells Kiyoshi to not stop his father and to let him be saying, "Each time he came to this town, ever since you were a baby, he left just like this. It's alright." When Komajuro arrives at the train station he sees Sumiko waiting for the train as well. She walks over and lights Komajuro's cigarette for him as she sits down next to him and asks where Komajuro will be heading. He eventually tells her Kuwana. Sumiko asks if she may go with him and he eventually agrees as the last shot of the film is the two of them sharing a seat together on the train as she pours him a cup of saké as the train pulls away.
Subtle, lyrical, and delicately bittersweet, Floating Weeds offers an excellent introduction to the cinema of Yasujiro Ozu—one of the greatest of all Japanese filmmakers, and until recently in the West, one of the least known.
“The Japanese . . . think of Ozu as the most Japanese of all their directors,” wrote film scholar Donald Richie of this master of lyric melodrama and low-key comedy whose career spanned the silent era to the post-war period. And from every angle it’s easy to see why. For while the period dramas of his great filmmaking compatriots Akira Kurosawa and Kenji Mizoguchi won acceptance in the West (as their stories sparked comparisons with our Westerns and “women’s pictures”), Ozu’s work was seldom seen outside Japan until some ten years after his death in 1963. His devotion to detailing everyday Japanese life, and his refusal to jazz things up with fancy camerawork and slick melodramatic formulas, made most distributors feel his work was unexportable—a quality that made the Japanese take Ozu to their hearts more than ever.
But times, and tastes, change and today filmmakers as diverse as Wim Wenders and Martin Scorsese rank Ozu as a master the equal of Chaplin and Rossellini in the delicacy of his observations of people and their lives. And as his large body of work becomes increasingly more available in the West, movie lovers are rapidly coming to agree with them. A remake of a story he first told in a 1934 silent film, Floating Weeds (1959) stands a bit apart from the bulk of Ozu’s work, which primarily dealt with the middle-class mainstream. But his favorite theme of the stresses and strains of parent-child relationships figure prominently in this story of a raggle-taggle theater troupe giving its final performances in a small fishing village.
Years before the action of the film began, the troupe’s leader Komajuro (Ganjiro Nakamura) fathered a son (Hiroshi Kawaguchi) by a local woman (Haruko Sugimura). Periodically he visited the boy, who was raised believing the actor to be his uncle. Now, with the company on its last legs, and the boy about to enter manhood, old Komajuro is anxious to make up for lost time, and become the father he never was to his child. But when his mistress (Michiko Kyo) finds out about the situation, she becomes overwhelmed by jealousy.
She bribes one of the younger girls in the troupe (Ayako Wakao) to make a pass at the boy, breaking his heart and bringing disgrace upon him, as actresses are considered socially unsavory—even by Komajuro himself. But her plotting goes awry when the young people actually fall in love. And Komajuro’s plans are also thwarted when the boy defies him—insisting on marrying this “unsuitable” girl. Everything comes out for the best for all concerned in the end, but not before each of the characters faces the fact that life involves both compromise and sentimental regret.
Given this scenario, most filmmakers would chart it out as a simple series of melodramatic “highs” and “lows.” Not Ozu. From the first shot, comically juxtaposing a lighthouse (background) with a sake bottle (foreground), to the last one of a train swiftly moving over a nighttime landscape, it’s plain we’re in the hands of a filmmaker whose prime concern is understatement and overtone. Rather than rush to the heat of a “big” dramatic moment, Ozu concentrates on the warmth of “small” ones. In scene after scene the way the characters walk, sit, stand, and speak is scrupulously observed. Time and time again, he gives the screen over to “minor” characters (the secondary actors in the troupe, always on the prowl for women) and even “unimportant” ones (passers-by, old people, children).
Nothing is “unimportant” in Ozu’s view. The story is not meant to stand as an “exceptional” dramatic incident, but rather as part of the context of the ebb and flow of life. “Unimportant” people and actions are part of this ebb and flow. In fact, so are the places and inanimate objects surrounding them. And so we are treated to lovingly photographed shots of banners blowing in the wind, gardens dripping with rain, empty small town streets. They punctuate the action, signaling the beginnings and ends of scenes. But they are also there to be seen for themselves in a manner that can only be called poetic.
As critic James Stoller has said, “If, to arrive at poetry in our time, we must sometimes go a long way, Ozu took us the longest way of all: back into the arms of a world we thought we had abandoned.” This abandoned world is nothing less than the one we inhabited as children—when each sight and sound was seen and appreciated by us as new. Ozu in Floating Weeds tells us a story, but at the same time he brings it to us through a child’s eyes. We cannot ask more of a film artist.
I find it sad that Americans care nothing for Japanese poetry and paintings, little for classic Japanese films and way too much for Japanese cartoons because every time I enter a Ozu film and start to spend time with the characters I always feel content and safe like I'm spending time and revisiting with old friends and relatives; and it always makes me smile. To me, Yasujirô Ozu is the most curious of all directors because most of his films focused on family, marriage, children and weddings when Ozu himself was a bachelor and lived with his mother his whole life, dying alone months after she died. Ozu's style is very legendary because many believe he didn't have any style at all. Most of his shots were low and stationary shots and his visual strategy was very simple; which some critics consider profound.
His camera is usually three feet above the floor and he almost never moves it, while using a slow evenly paced track or pan, and a 360 degree axis of action with changes of angle in 45, 90, and 180 degree increments only, resulting in frequent breaks in continuity. Every single shot has an intended composition and the only movement you see in most Ozu films is characters walking in and out of rooms, not the camera itself. I also notice when most of Ozu's characters talk to each other they talk straight into the camera with almost no use of over the shoulder shots for one-on-one conversations; violating the traditional rules of visual composition. He often films a conversation between two people in which the characters don't seem to be looking at each other which makes us identify the character's from outside the conversation and objectively. Ozu's films also consist of several cutaways and transitions to dramatic action, which are a series of images which usually consist of the city with smoke, banners in the wind, clouds, empty streets, small architectural details, and clothes hanging on a line; which many call 'pillow shots,'.
A lot of Japanese cinema developed largely in isolation from the West until the end of World War II. With the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, it led to the rebuilding and modernization of the film industry. There were two types of Japanese films which were developed because of that: The Jadai-geki, which were
historical films (made in Kyoto) set in pre-Mediji restoration period before 1868. Examples are The Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Sansho and Bailiff, and Ugetsu. And the Gendai-geki which were contemporary films made in Tokyo, like Floating Weeds and most of Ozu's films. In 1945 Japan was in ruins after the droppings of atomic bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki with over 900,000 casualties, which encouraged production of meiji-mono and gendai-geki (films of contemporary life).
Like all of Ozu's films, Floating Weeds pacing is slow or as critic David Bordwell prefers to describe it, "calm". Ozu’s narrative strategies in his films are interesting because important events are often not shown on-screen, only being revealed later through dialogue. Despite a Western boom in Japanese samurai films starting with Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon in the 1950's, Ozu's films remained unknown abroad. Ozu is sometimes considered the most Japanese of all Japan's directors. He was considered so Japanese, in fact, that his films were hardly seen outside Japan until after his death and it was Tokyo Story that broke the barrier. It showed at several screenings in 1972 in New York and won the hearts of the critics; and in time critics came to realize that this quiet filmmaker was one of cinema's masters.
Yasujirô Ozu's films usually follow a similar theme and some critics even used that as a criticism of Ozu's work, but I don't see it that way. Most great directors use personal themes over and over just with a different context. Sure, you can say films like Early Summer, Late Spring and An Autumn Afternoon were all about a daughter who is pressured within the family to find a suitor and be wed off. But each film had different family members with different personalities and different character traits. Then there are the films that don't involve that similar storyline, like Floating Weeds and finally Tokyo Story — which is considered by many to be Ozu's masterpiece.
1934's silent film A Story of Floating Weeds was always something Ozu thought about remaking. He finally had the opportunity to do so in 1959 when Daiei Studios asked him to make a film. Remaking to Ozu in many ways meant revisiting and yet he wanted to shoot the film in a completely different location which was on the island of Shijima, along the Wakayama Kii Peninsula. Even though the setting was radically changed the script was not and when comparing both versions there are few major differences between the 1934 and the 1959 versions and both films share the same characters, compositions and sequences. The main differences between the two films were the tone of Daiei and Shochiku and in many ways the remake seemed like the lighter and less darker version.
Another reason why the tones are so different was that the original was in black and white and the remake was decided to be shot from Ozu's Shockihu color films in which he worked with master photographer Kazuo Miyagawa who also worked with such acclaimed directors like Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa. Ozu once said, "I wanted to have nothing to do with CinemaScope, and consequently I shot more close-ups and used shorter shots...This film must have more cuts in it than any other recent Japanese movie." A lot of the differences between both versions could be because Ozu was thirty-one when first making the story and when remaking it was at the age of fifty-six in which Ozu mellowed out which could be why the remake feels less bleak or gritty than when it was originally conceived.
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert states, "Floating Weeds is a poignant film that I always return to for consolation as I do with most of Ozu's work." I completely agree, because every time I view this Floating Weeds I always feel as part of the troupe that comes to visit the town during the hot and humid summer, in which I reconnect with neighbors and friends I've known most of my life. Some of the visuals in the film will always stick with me like the rusted boat decks on the beach, the bottle of wine sitting near the shore with the lighthouse in the exterior of the background, character's resting on the beach smoking and fanning themselves, and arguments between a married man and his mistress as the two of them seem to be separated by the downpour of a storm which can be looked at as a visual contrast to their internal feelings. Komajuro and the love for his son in which he cannot reveal the truth of their relationship, can be told in many different ways. Ozu could reveal the story of Floating Weeds as a typical melodramatic soap opera or tear-jerker but that is not Ozu's style. He is a brilliant artist of subtlety and instead projects the realities of everyday family dramas without resorting to cliques or melodrama. During the film Ozu often cuts 'pillow shots' which are several composition shots of an architectural setting like clothes on a line or a banner in the wind. Ozu once said, "I have formulated my own directing style in my head proceeding without any unnecessary imitation of others.'' The character's in Floating Weeds and the choices they make within the structure of the story makes complete sense. It is completely understandable why Sumiko would be furious with her lover for keeping such a secret from her even though the revenge she plots out which involves his own son as bait isn't necessarily the right thing to do. Kayo is a girl who doesn't think too much of herself and when she unexpectedly falls in love with Kiyoshi she realizes that she is more than just an actress and is more important and special than how she orignally perceived herself. Oyoshi is a patient and strong mother who is devoted to trying to have her son make something of himself and will even sacrifice her own happiness for him to go off and accomplish those goals. Even the subplots that involve several of the actors in the troupe who are conflicted on staying loyal to their master is understandable. They want to stay loyal to their boss and at the same time don't want to be homeless and broke. And yet the true heart of the story is the relationship between Komajuro and Kiyoshi. I understand that Komajuro is embarrassed to reveal to Kiyoshi that his father is a mere stage actor and yet he doesn't realize that the longer he keeps it a secret from him, the greater the chance he will lose him when the truth is finally revealed. I can completely understand why Kiyoshi doesn't want to accept Komajuro as his father when the truth is exposed and I feel the empathy of his anger and bitterness when he learns of this truth. If Kiyoshi grew up most of his life without his father just fine, what makes him think he would still need his father as an adult, when his father clearly didn't want to be involved with him when he was just a child? What makes Ozu's film such an extraordinary experience is that his endings are always ambiguous, like life. We don't know if Kiyoshi and Komajuro will ever reunite in the future or even if Komajuro will become a successful actor and return like he promises to make his son proud. Ozu portrays the dramatic slices of life which include lost opportunities, regrets and sadness and leaves the endings open for us to ponder. There are hundreds of thousands of fatherless children in the world who go through life just fine without a father figure and learn to accept it. Ozu understands this and so does Kiyoshi and Komajuro, and the future of their relationship is as unclear as the destination on the train that Komajuro and Sumiko are taking.