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Stories of Floating Weeds (A Story of Floating Weeds / Floating Weeds) (The Criterion Collection)

26 customer reviews

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The Criterion Collection
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Product Description

In 1959, Yasujiro Ozu remade his 1934 silent classic A Story of Floating Weeds in color with the celebrated cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Rashomon, Ugetsu). Setting his later version in a seaside location, Ozu otherwise preserves the details of his elegantly simple plot wherein an aging actor returns to a small town with his troupe and reunites with his former lover and illegitimate son, a scenario that enrages his current mistress and results in heartbreak for all. Together, the films offer a unique glimpse into the evolution of one of cinema's greatest directors. A Story of Floating Weeds reveals Ozu in the midst of developing his mode of expression; Floating Weeds reveals his distinct style at its pinnacle. In each, the director captures the joy and sadness in everyday life.

Providing a unique opportunity for the appreciation of Yasujiro Ozu's signature style, Criterion's definitive double-feature of A Story of Floating Weeds (1934) and Floating Weeds (1959) demonstrates the evolution of a master. Drawing inspiration from the now-obscure 1928 American carnival-troupe drama The Barker, Ozu first made A Story of Floating Weeds as a silent film (despite the advent of sound by that time), and Criterion's DVD features a sublime, newly recorded original score that sounds and feels like it's been part of the film all along. The film itself concerns a traveling Kabuki troupe faced with dramatic revelations as they perform in a rural village: Their master has had a son from a former lover whom he is visiting for the first time in a dozen years. Unaware of his parentage, the now-grown son thinks the visitor is his rarely seen uncle, and the master's mistress, upon discovering her lover's secret family, plots to undermine their relationship by urging a young actress to seduce the son, knowing that this would enrage the master's discreet familial pride. By story's end, all of these central relationships will undergo deep and resonant change.

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

Special Features

  • Disc One: A Story of Floating Weeds (1934)
  • New high-definition transfer with restored image
  • Audio commentary by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
  • New and improved English subtitle translation by Donald Richie
  • Disc Two: Floating Weeds (1959)
  • New high-definition transfer with restored image & sound
  • Audio commentary by film critic Roger Ebert
  • Stories of Floating Weeds, an essay by Donald Richie

Product Details

  • Actors: Ganjirô Nakamura, Machiko Kyô, Haruko Sugimura, Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi
  • Directors: Yasujirô Ozu
  • Writers: Yasujirô Ozu, Kôgo Noda, Tadao Ikeda
  • Producers: Masaichi Nagata
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2004
  • Run Time: 205 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001GH5RY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,204 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Stories of Floating Weeds (A Story of Floating Weeds / Floating Weeds) (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 73 people found the following review helpful By E. Dolnack on May 2, 2004
Format: DVD
If you only buy one Japanese film to add to your DVD collection, let it be an Ozu film and "Floating Weeds" is a wonderful place to start. There's really nothing I can say that isn't absolutely praiseworthy about Ozu and this film. It truly is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
The Criterion Collection DVD is also a masterpiece, giving us both the original silent "Story of Floating Weeds" and the 1959 remake "Floating Weeds", (both directed by Ozu). The mastering is done well, the sound is great, and the voice-over commentary by famed Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times is a delightful surprise. Ebert humbly acknowledges that there are better Japanese film & culture experts out there, but "does his best" to give a very thorough description of Ozu's very unique style. Needless to say, it's one of the better and more informative commentaries I've heard and Mister Ebert is modest.
The story is genuine, sweet, simple, and believable. The characters are solid and have great depth. Ozu keeps the action and emotions to a realistic level without resorting to over-acting in any of his films. They almost don't feel like films in this way, but feel like intrusions into other peoples lives, but politely so.
Many people have speculated as to Ozu's curious method of placing his camera just below the eye-level of his actors onscreen, and I have my own theory. Perhaps Mr Ozu also has the innocence of children in mind, and is trying to see the world unbiasedly and naively like a child might - from the aproximate eye-level of a child viewing the events happening in the same room as he or she? It's an idea anyway.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 10, 2005
Format: DVD
Ozu called himself a "tofu dealer" who sold many different kinds of tofu, but never pork cutlets or anything like that. He was a master of variations on a theme, taking simple stories and telling and re-telling them, each time with a subtle difference, a slight bend in light and tone. In this stunning DVD package, we are treated to two servings of the same tofu, with the flavor variation that comes with ageing.

The older film, 1934's silent masterpiece "A Story of Floating Weeds" ("Ukigusa monogatari") was made by a younger man with a younger man's passion and righteousness, and the more modern update, 1959's "Floating Weeds" ("Ukigusa,") longer and in color, shows the mellowing that comes with age, the greater desire to forgive, as we see the same story unfold in the hands of an older version of the same man.

Like the river weed from which the films take their names, the Kabuki actors in both versions float from town to town, going where the course takes them and leaving behind nothing permanent. Long ago, however, one piece of ukigusa, the troupe leader Kihachi, betrayed his nature and left behind something of himself, a son. Now, the course of the river brings Kihachi back to his house of old memories. He is excited, pleased with his son, and briefly considers abandoning his drifting ways to become a true and settled tree. But Kihachi does not float alone, and his leaves and roots are entangled with his Kabuki troupe, including his lover who is determined to keep him drifting.

Like all of Ozu's films, the role of the family is the forefront of "A Story of Floating Weeds/Floating Weeds." In these films, the idea of family is hard to define.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Max Hurst on March 28, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have only really discovered Ozu in the three years or so and in my mid-- life it is like entering a bright new world. I have recently watched Floating Weeds for the second time (having ordered it on video). The first time I thought it an unusual film- though not one of his best. I have now completely revised this opinion and consider it a supreme masterpiece. Ozu astonishes with a quiet directness I find moving , completely absorbing and exhilarating to watch. I realize the theatre troup which comes into the town, contstructs its little Kabuki world and then fades into nothing is a perfect vehicle and symbol for what Ozu is consistently portraying in all his little plays: the transient , troubling beauty of the world . The transient troubling little dramas of human relationships. The imagery in all Ozu's films(but somehow epsecially this one) make me see images as I did in childhood : a turned corner on a side street, a scene of a harbor at dusk, a slightly surprised look on the face of middle-aged woman. Many of these movies were filmed when I was a child but I believe there is more than a kind odd 1950's familiarity. There is a kind of direct , unfettered appeal to sensations it is almost difficult to name. Something immediately
innocent and guileless in ourselves. Something always,already seeing and awake. The more I watch Ozu the more I see this and nowhere more than in this film. I kept chuckling at little, scene after little scene. Tiny little nuanced moments I kept rewinding to see if I'd really seen . Anyone who hasn't seen this film: Don't just watch it once.
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Stories of Floating Weeds (A Story of Floating Weeds / Floating Weeds) (The Criterion Collection)
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