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Film / A Story of Floating Weeds

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A Story of Floating Weeds is a Japanese film from 1934 directed by Yasujiro Ozu.

Kihachi is the leader of a traveling troupe of kabuki actors. The troupe stops in a small town somewhere, a place they have been before, as the players are recognized as they get off the train. Kihachi hopes to stay for a year. The main reason he hopes to stay for a year is the presence of Otsune, an innkeeper who is the mother of Kihachi's son, Shinkichi. They have kept this a secret from Shinkichi, who believes his father is long dead.

Torrential rains put a crimp in the troupe's schedule and leave them stuck in the little town. Meanwhile, Kihachi's lover Otaka, an actress in the troupe, observes him with Otsune and figures out what's going on. When a confrontation ends with Kihachi striking Otaka and kicking her out of the troupe, Otaka enlists another actress, Otoki, to seduce Shinkichi.

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A Story of Floating Weeds is a silent film—silent film hung on in Asia for a few years after it had been abandoned in the United States and Europe. Ozu remade this film a quarter-century later in color and with sound as Floating Weeds, to international acclaim.


Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: A father-and-son are part of the acting troupe. Dad raids his little boy's kitty bank in order to have money for sake.
  • Becoming the Mask: Otoki sets out to seduce Shinkichi in order to embarrass him and get back at his father. Naturally, she falls in love with him.
  • Betty and Veronica: There's Kihachi's old flame Otsune, who is demure and accomodating in a traditional Japanese feminine way, and his new lover Otaka, who is a cigarette-puffing actress who is not abou to put up with Kihachi's crap.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kihachi leaves town again, abandoning his plans to stay with Otsune, possibly never reconciling with his son. But he meets Otaka at the train station, they reconcile, and they elect to start a new theater troupe.
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  • Brick Joke: The young boy in the troupe plays a dog in the act. His father tells him not to eat so many melons, as he'll wet the bed. Also, the boy apparently has some kind of jock itch. Late in the film, as the troupe is dissolving, the man buying their gear catches a whiff of something nasty from the crotch of the dog costume and cringes. The father shoots a Death Glare at his son.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: The mess with Otaka and Otoki leads Kihachi to break up the troupe for good. They get together for one last melancholy dinner before going their separate ways.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: The stated justification for Kihachi and Otsune never revealing Shinkichi's parentage—supposedly having a traveling actor for a father would just be too embarrassing. Shinkichi doesn't buy this for a second.
  • Glorified Sperm Donor: Kihachi is this, trying to play the part of a father and make decisions about Shinkichi's love life when he hasn't seen him for years and hasn't even acknowledged him.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Otaka is often seen puffing away on a cigarette. This marks her as a more modern woman and nothing like Otsune, who represents more conventional Japanese femininity.
  • Love Triangle: Between Kihachi, his fiery lover Otaka, and his more traditionally demure former lover Otsune.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with a shot of the train taking Otaka and Kihachi off to the next town.
  • Signature Shot: Ozu's habit of staging the camera three feet off the ground, as also seen in his later films like Tokyo Story, was part of his style in this film as well. The shot approximates the viewpoint of someone kneeling on a Japanese tatami mat.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Otoki bolts from the room during the final, ugly confrontation between Kihachi and Shinkichi. She's never seen again and we never do find out if she and Shinkichi wind up together or not.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Kihachi is distressingly prone to hitting women. He slaps Otoki when he finds out about her and his son and he hits Otaka multiple times after finding out her role in events.
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