Floating Weeds is a much different type of Yasujiro Ozu film than the norm. First of all Floating Weeds is a remake of his 1934 silent film A Story of Floating Weeds. 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.
Ozu was justifiably proud of this meticulous character study, in which his celebrated low-angle style began to assert itself. A quarter-century later, he remade the film as Floating Weeds, retaining the same story and characters, switching the setting to a seaside town, and demonstrating a more casual acceptance of human foibles that makes the 1959 version (Ozu's first film in color) relatively calm and compassionate when contrasted with the more turbulent tone of the '34 silent. Having grown as an artist, Ozu was at his stylistic peak here, having refined his style to the point where all camera movement had given way to flawless refinement of static compositions. These and other comparisons abound in the study of original and remake; to that end, commentaries by preeminent Japanese film expert and dialogue translator Donald Richie (on the '34 film) and film critic Roger Ebert (on Floating Weeds) provide astutely thorough appreciations of the parallel structures, stylistic evolution, and cultural specifics of films that, until the early 1970's, were considered "too Japanese" for an international audience. Never dry or pretentious, their scholarly analyses lend solid, sensitive context to the enjoyment of two of Ozu's most critically and commercially successful films. --Jeff Shannon
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.