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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

Floating Weeds

Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Country: Japan
Year: 1959

Background

I’m going away for the weekend, and thus trying to write a shorter article, but I keep getting sidetracked with peripheral stuff I want to include, like this cool series of 80’s-metal-themed director’s t-shirts offered by MondoTees. They make a nice Ozzy/Ozu shirt that you might want to purchase after watching this week’s film, Floating Weeds.

Yasujiro Ozu was born in Tokyo in 1903. At the age of 10, his mother sent him away to live in his father’s home town of Matsuzaka, an event which likely contributed to the theme of familial dissolution so prominent in Floating Weeds and throughout Ozu’s oeuvre.

He directed his first film, The Sword of Penitence (of which there are no known prints) in 1927, and went on to direct 53 films. In 1937, after directing many critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful films, he was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army. He served for two years in China, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Upon his return to filmmaking, he began to develop and perfect the trademarks of his ascetic style: limited (or no) camera movement, music only during transition scenes, actors filmed head-on during conversations, “pillow shots” of objects or buildings to transition between scenes, low angle photography (the “tatami shot”), direct cuts instead of fades.

His films often re-worked themes and characters from his previous films; today’s film from 1959 is a remake of his own Story of Floating Weeds from 1934. He also recycled actors: Koji (Hideo) Mitsui played the son in the earlier version and plays the thieving Kichi in the 1959 version. Several of his films feature a lovable ne’er-do-well named Kihachi, although in Floating Weeds he is named Komajuro. According to Donald Richie’s Criterion essay, Ozu “referred to himself as a ‘tofu-maker,’ able to make all varieties but unable to make anything else.”

Ozu’s most commercially successful period was from the mid-40’s to 1960, during which he directed most of his acknowledged masterpieces: Late Spring (1949), Tokyo Story (1953), Early Spring (1956), Floating Weeds (1959), and Late Autumn (1960).

Ozu was a notorious perfectionist, hated widescreen composition (which he inexplicably compared to toilet paper), and drank too much. He died in 1963, childless and single to the end. His gravestone is marked with a single character, mu, which means “nothingness.”

Synopsis

I’ve been noticing opening title music on these films recently, and what that music tells us about the movie to follow. In the case of today’s film, the opening music suggests a 1950’s Hollywood melodrama.

There is a beautifully composed shot of a lighthouse on the shore, visually echoed by a bottle in the foreground.

We are in a seaside town. Some folks are in a dockside waiting room, anticipating the arrival of a ferry.

A promoter is tacking up a poster, advertising a theatrical troupe arriving on the incoming ferry. The station master, however, is no fan of that greasepaint samurai kabuki bullshit: “I liked that strip show last month,” he reminisces fondly. “Remember that big girl in the pink?”

“I saw this troupe years ago,” another man responds. “During the war…”

Got the setup? Creaky old theatrical troupe arriving in a small town, where they have an as-yet-undisclosed history (they were here during the war, after all), and their potential customers would rather see some good ol’ T and A.

There is a camera shot from the deck of the ferry, showing us the boats and docks passing. This, apparently, is the only camera movement in any of Ozu’s six color films. Even then, the camera is rigidly mounted to the deck of the boat, and there’s no panning or zooming or anything, so I’m not sure it counts as “camera movement” but anyway: There it is. The rest of the film consists of nothing but carefully-composed static shots.

Finally, we see the poster:

KOMAJURO ARASHI AND HIS TROUPE PLAYING AT THE AIOI THEATER

The members of the troupe march through town to the theater, playing music and dancing, children following like rats following the Pied Piper.

I laughed when one kid broke off from the pack to take a whiz behind a barrel. I can’t imagine seeing that in a U.S. film from 1959. If anyone can think of an example proving me wrong, I’d love to hear about it.

Several of the actors are now walking through the town, handing out two-for-one coupons. One boy demands more of the coupons. “You have a pretty sister?” the actor asks. The boy admits that he does, so the actor gives him another coupon. When the boy adds that his sister is only twelve, the actor angrily grabs the coupon back, thereby setting up one of the film’s major themes: Actors are Horny 24-7, Bro.

Komajuro confers with the impresario, the troupe unpacks in the town theater, and their manager travels on ahead, to secure an engagement in the next town along the kabuki circuit.

As unsophisticated small-town folk are wont to do (at least, unsophisticated small-town folk in the movies), shopkeepers and housewives are gossiping about the new arrivals: “He used to perform around here, didn’t he?” “Is he the leading man?” “He’s pretty old.” “She’s so pretty.” “I hear he shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” And so on.

The leader of the troupe, Komajuro, visits Oyoshi, an older woman who owns a restaurant. He orders sake, and she warms it in a pot of hot water.

From their halting conversation and the awkward silences, we can only assume that they were once lovers. One time, I went to Denny’s with some friends, and our waitress turned out to be the first girl I had ever kissed, many years earlier. Super uncomfortable, I can tell you. That was kind of like this scene, except it turns out that Komajuro and Oyoshi actually have a reason to talk: they have a son. His name is Kiyoshi, he’s college-bound and physically fit, and he doesn’t know that his father is a randy actor in a flea-bitten kabuki troupe.

Oyoshi seems to be lobbying for full disclosure, but Komajuro disagrees: “Let it stay this way.” (Meaning: let him continue to think I am merely his uncle.)

We all know this will end in tears, right? I kept thinking of how this movie would be marketed today, what the trailer would look like. There would be slo-mo shots of each of the characters, each one fading to black, and then that annoying voiceover guy would say something like: “Over the next 24 hours, secrets will be revealed, promises will be broken, and the life of one man… will change forever.”

Kiyoshi arrives, smart and handsome as promised. Komajuro marvels at how much he has grown: “They’d have drafted you back then,” he muses, one of several indirect references to WWII.

Kiyoshi says he will come see the play. “Forget it,” declares his father/uncle. “It’s not meant for you. It’s nothing high-class.” “Why show such plays?” asks Kiyoshi, sensibly. “Show something better.”

Komajuro and Kiyoshi make a plan to go fishing together.

That night, we see part of the troupe’s act, including lots of that growling, shouting, caterwauling imperative kabuki dialogue: “You, noted sword, thoroughly tempered by the famous Yoshikane of Kaga, cleansed in the brook from the perpetual snow! You, at least, will guard me well!” (etc.)

At seemingly random intervals, this is punctuated by the offstage clicking of wooden dowels, or a shrieking trill on a wooden flute. I keep reminding myself that these folks would be just as mystified (and irritated) if they were dropped into the audience at, say, a Rush concert.

Which reminds me: “The Big Money” is an awesome song.

The male actors look out from behind the curtain, spying on the women they flirted with earlier in the day. “Look! The barber’s daughter!” “Where?” “Behind the fat woman eating a bun!” “She’s nice. A real find.” As previously noted: Actors? Horn-dogs.

The audience looks sparse, but Komajuro tries to put a positive spin on things: “Big house tonight!”

weeds_komajuro1

“Not very,” replies his mistress, Sumiko. “Not for an opening.”

Komajuro will not allow his buzz to be killed: “It will get better!” he proclaims, as he strides triumphantly onstage to the throttled shrieking of wooden flutes.

During the day, the actors continue their pursuit of the women in the town, but – in a cringe-inducing recurring joke – nobody wants the horse-faced woman with the bad teeth.

The unfortunate actor trying to put the moves on the barber’s daughter gets stuck instead with the barber’s fat and unhappy wife, who insists on giving him a shave. When we next see our intrepid actor, he has a large bandage on his cheek.

Komajuro fishes with his son/nephew, Kiyoshi.

In direct defiance of his father’s wishes, Kiyoshi attended the previous night’s performance. He was not impressed: “I think you overdid it. You really mugged it up.” Furthermore, “…that character has no meaning now.” Ouch.

Komajuro tries to change the subject: “I heard you want to go to college.”

Later, Sumiko suspiciously asks where Komajuro spent his afternoon. When he claims that he spent it fishing with the other actors, Sumiko turns to the lollygagging actors for confirmation. “Yeah, he caught a blowfish,” they tell her, laughing. “A great big puffer.”

Sumiko is not to be trifled with, however, and she soon extracts confirmation of her jealous fears: Komajuro has an old girlfriend in town, and he has been visiting her. Now, as far as you and I know, Komajuro and Oyoshi are just sharing old memories and warm sake, like in Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen, but hell hath no fury, etc., so Sumiko begins to plot her revenge.

The next day, Komajuro plays chess (or is it GO?) with his son/nephew, at Oyoshi’s Diner. Sumiko shows up to confront him. Things get ugly, and Komajuro drags Sumiko into the rainy street, where they continue sparring.

Sumiko reminds him that she has saved his sorry ass several times: “Remember Okaya? Toyokawa? Each time you got stranded… I had to appeal to the impresario on all fours!” (ed. note: Wha…?)

To which Komajuro responds: “You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when I met you!” What’s more, he adds: “I picked you out, I shook you up, and turned you around, turned you into someone new!” (I’m paraphrasing.)

Infuriated, Sumiko pays the beautiful young actress Kayo to seduce Kiyoshi. Kayo, apparently no stranger to diabolical sexual manipulation, invites Kiyoshi to come see her after the show, if you know what I mean, and he does. Know what she means, I mean. Sexual Intercourse!

The actors are sitting on the beach, hungry, pondering their future. “Remember that girl from Handa?” exclaims one. “I got a letter!” “I got one, too,” replies the second actor. “You mean the one with the mole?” asks the third. “I got one, myself.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Actors: HORNY.

They wonder where the manager went. “If he doesn’t come back, we’ll be stranded again.” The show, apparently, was a flop; there will be no more performances here in… whatever town we’re in.

Unbeknownst to Komajuro and Oyoshi (keep up now), Kiyoshi and Kayo continue to see each other. “At first, I was just leading you on,” admits Kayo. “I’m not really a good girl. Not good enough for you.”

Komajuro sits with his old lover Oyoshi, preparing to leave for Shingu. Oyoshi says that she would like to visit Shingu, but Komajura counsels against it: “No relative of yours remains there. Everything changes…”

Oyoshi asks Komajuro about the strange angry woman who burst into her restaurant a few nights previous with all those crazy accusations, but wily old Komajuro avoids her questions. “You think I’m jealous?” she demands, frustrated by his evasion. “I know better than that. I know you’re a fast worker.”

As before, she recommends full disclosure, but Komajuro refuses: “He must never know. He’d be unhappy.”

Walking back to the theater, he sees Kiyoshi and Kayo making with the kissy-face and realizes that he may as well put a proverbial quarter in his ass, he got played so thoroughly. He confronts Kayo, wild-eyed. “Are you trying to seduce him? I know what a slut like you would try!”

After he threatens to break her arm, Kayo tells him everything, proving that the bleeding-heart liberals are dead wrong: apparently, torture does produce actionable intelligence.

Komajuro then confronts Sumiko, and by “confronts” I mean that he slaps her several times and then calls her a slut. Now, I don’t claim to be familiar with all of the cultural norms operating here, but I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that Komajuro turned out to be kind of an abusive jerk.

“You tried to ruin my son!” he continues.

“A great boy he is, with an actress for a mistress! Like father, like son!”

“Grrr!”

“Angry? Serves you right! Life’s a lottery. You can’t always be lucky.”

Komajuro has no retort to this homily, so he returns to his favorite theme: “You slut!”

Weirdly, Sumiko is now trying to make up with him: “You kept that woman from me. Think how I felt. Now we’re even. We’re stranded. Let’s not quarrel.”

Komajuro sits fuming in front of his mirror, his world collapsing around him.

In town, the actors hang out with the women, who don’t seem to be as interested now that they have no money. The manager, supposedly setting up their next gig, has gone to ground.

Desperate, two of the actors talk about the possibility of stealing the boss’s money:

“…are you actually talking about this, or are we just…”

“No, we’re just…”

“We’re just ‘talking’ about it.”

“We’re just speaking about it. As an idea.”

“As an idea.”

“Yes.”

“We’re not actually talking about it.”

“No.”

“Talking about it as a…”

“No.”

“As a robbery.”

“As a ‘robbery’?! No.”

“Well. Well…”

Actually, that’s from Glengarry Glenn Ross. Completely different movie. In any case, they are scolded by another member of the troupe, Kichi: “An ungrateful man is not a human being!” Ashamed, they abandon their evil plan. That night, Kichi robs the troupe blind and cuts town.

Later, the troupe settles up with the impresario. Attendance was poor; there is only enough for their rail fares. The mood is heavy. The actors drink sake and discuss their future plans – pickle factory worker, student, etc.

“The troupe’s breaking up,” acknowledges Komajuro. “But I want you to remember me sometimes.” We hear a train whistle in background, foreshadowing their departure.

Komajuro says goodbye to his old lover, and finds that his son has disappeared – with Kayo, to the surprise of no one who’s been paying attention. Turns out Kiyoshi and Kayo spent the night making sweet, sweet love in a nearby Travelodge. Kayo, however, feels some remorse: “You told me you wanted to go to college. Go home like a good boy. Forget about a girl like me.” But Kiyoshi holds her tightly, and the train leaves, and they are still together.

Back at the restaurant, Komajuro and Oyoshi await the return of Kiyoshi and Kayo.

Again Oyoshi implores, “Tell him everything. Tell him.”

Komajuro reflects upon the breakup of his kabuki troupe, his estrangement from his mistress, his rapidly receding hairline, his lack of funds… and suddenly settling down with his ex-lover – not to mention a steady supply of restaurant-grade sake – is sounding pretty good.

The young lovers return, and Komajuro tries to reason with them, primarily by screaming “whore!” and striking them about the neck and head. Before too long, Kiyoshi has had enough of this, and throws Komajuro to the ground. “Don’t you know who this is?” cries his mother. “He didn’t want you to know that you were an itinerant actor’s son. He worked hard and sent me the money for your schooling.”

“You told me my father died,” Kiyoshi replies coldly. “I believed it. I still believe it. I don’t want a father!”

After Kiyoshi retreats huffily to his bedroom, Komajuro sits on the floor, rubbing his bruised head and reflecting on the sorry state of his life.

“On second thought, I’m not going to settle down. 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. Then we’ll celebrate my success and be happy.”

Inexplicably, Kayo offers to come with him, but Komajuro refuses. He apologizes for scolding her, but sorta glosses over that part where he called her a whore and slapped her repeatedly, and that other time when he threatened to break her arm. Maybe the Japanese word that translates as “scold” includes all of that. In any event, he leaves. Kiyoshi starts to run after him, but Oyoshi stops him. “Each time he came to town, ever since you were a baby, he left like this. It’s alright. But only if you can really become somebody.”

Komajuro and his estranged mistress Sumiko are the only people in the train station. He takes out a cigarette, but finds that he has no light. Sumiko approaches on her knees and offers a light, but he petulantly resists.

“I don’t know where to go now,” says Sumiko. “Do you have any plans?”

He mentions a possible startup opportunity in a previously-untapped kabuki market, and she asks if there might be room for a beautiful and subservient female in the proposed startup. They reconcile.

On the train, Sumiko pours sake for Komajuro. The lights of the train recede into the night.

What I Liked

As previously noted, each shot is a meticulously-composed masterpiece; this is a wondrous film to look at. The acting is tremendous and believable all around; Ganjiro Nakamura as Komajuro and Machiko Kyo as Sumiko are particularly memorable. I loved the seaside village architecture, with its stone terraces, heavy wood timbers, and rice paper screens. I have a soft spot for those museum-piece-beautiful yet absurdly elaborate traditional Japanese dresses worn by Sumiko and Kayo. I liked the backstage camaraderie and intrigue, which reminded me of the intoxicating milieu surrounding drama productions back in high school.

What I Didn’t Like So Much

Well, about that static shot thing… after a while, it felt downright stifling. Sometimes artistic limitations can be the mother of invention; when the Dogme 95 auteurs came up with their prohibitive Ten Commandments (No overdubbed music or sound effects, no mounted cameras, no composite shots, etc.), it was an attempt to force themselves into finding new ways of doing things. But Ozu’s long-term adherence to his “static shots only” rule is clearly a stylistic decision. While he and his cinematographer compose beautiful images, I would rather look at those images in a coffee-table book. I want my movies to move! (pounds fist on podium)

Second, and more important complaint: Yikes, the sexism in this film was pretty loud, even to my jaded and not-particularly-enlightened ears. The ostensible hero of the piece has a nasty habit of beating and screaming “slut!” at the women in his life. I don’t have a problem with showing this behavior in a film; some men are exactly like this. But in this case, the film itself doesn’t seem to believe that there’s anything particularly bothersome about his behavior. Time after time, Komajuro treats women badly, only to have them respond by apologizing to him. I’m so glad I didn’t ask Robin to watch this one with me…

Should You See It?

Fan of Ozu or Japanese film in general, lover of great color cinematography, enjoy stories about acting troupes and the attendant backstage intrigue? Yes, you should probably see Floating Weeds. Rampant, unremarked misogyny of a main character would significantly detract from your enjoyment of a film, and nothing in the “yes” list really applies to you? Nah, you can probably skip this one.

Next: Forbidden Games

2 Comments

  1. (Netflix offered only the 1934 silent version, and that is what I watched for this review.) (Loved your imaginary dialog at the Blockbuster counter, Matt!)

    *****

    How sad. The only one who gets what she wants is the antagonist, Sumiko.

    Sumiko is an actress and member of a traveling theater troupe, whose leader is Komajuro. At the beginning of the movie, the troupe arrives at a small town, gets settled in, and begins getting ready to put on their show and hopefully earn some money. As the story unfolds, we learn that Komajuro has a son, Kiyoshi, by another lady, Oyoshi, who just so happens to live in this small town.

    My sympathies quickly attached to Oyoshi, who raised Kiyoshi with only financial and no other kind of support from Komajuro. As we see Oyoshi and Komajuro together, it is clear that they are still very fond of each other. But it is also clear that they made the choice to have Komajuro continue his work with the troupe, so that they could send their son to school. The ultimate tragedy is that they lied to Kiyoshi and told him that his father had been killed. The son grows up thinking that his father is his uncle. (Sounds kinda like a family in the Ozarks, or Montana, but you know what I mean.)

    Sumiko starts getting suspicious about Komajuro’s absences from the troupe and quickly discovers the situation regarding Oyoshi and Kiyoshi. In her jealousy, Sumiko convinces her fellow troupe member, actress Kayo, to seduce Kiyoshi, which Kayo has no trouble doing. However, Kayo becomes smitten with Kiyoshi for real, and when papa-san finds out, he’s none too happy. Komajuro totally disses Kayo as nothing more than a traveling actress (which is apparently right up there with a woman of ill repute), and dictates to Kiyoshi that Kayo is not good enough for him and that he would be wasting his life and all the hard-earned schooling for which his parents have sacrificed. Kiyoshi is quite angry with this discussion and tries to defend his love for Kayo. At some point during the confrontation (I think), Kiyoshi learns the truth about his father’s identity, and he is understandably confused, upset and even more mad. Then Komajuro discovers that Sumiko put Kayo up to the seduction. Another unpleasant confrontation ensues between Komajuro and Sumiko.

    As this interpersonal drama is unfolding, the troupe is folding up. The rains have come, the performance venue is not waterproof, and audiences will not watch the show while being dripped upon. Komajuro decides to sell off the props, pay the actors, and disband the group. All of this is done, culminating in a sentimental last meal together, complete with drinking and singing. Everyone sheds a few tears, and the troupe splits up. Komajuro heads off to Oyoshi’s home and barely gets settled in when Kiyoshi comes home. (Maybe this is when he learns that his uncle is his father.) It soon becomes clear that father and son will not be able to live together, so Komajuro says his good-byes to Oyoshi and Kiyoshi and heads off to the train station.

    Well, lo and behold, guess who’s also conveniently waiting at the station? Yes, the bitch’s timing is perfect. As all wily women know that the true path to a man’s, um, heart is with food, she quickly shares her bento box with him. Komajuro asks Sumiko if she wants to join him on the road, and the story ends with the two of them heading off together to start a new troupe.

    I just felt so bad for Oyoshi, who was such a seemingly kind person, and who could not have life with both father and son together. How sad.

    Musings on scratchings: One pesky yet vaguely quaint activity that I kept noticing was the actors scratching themselves. Oyoshi occasionally, without thinking, scratched her head or her arm. The men were often scratching any number of body parts, including a butt scratching in one scene, not to mention the groin scratching. (Boys have cooties.) I don’t think this was intentional, and I refer to it as quaint in the sense that the film in its entirety is a glimpse into Japanese life in the past. I have always been fascinated with the traditional Japanese style of living (multipurpose rooms, tatami, shoji, tokonoma, kura, zen aesthetics–sorry, Matt, I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes right now), but I’ve never looked beyond to the economics of my romanticized notions and the realities of life for most Japanese in the past. Watching these characters, living together crammed into one room, having seemingly very little to eat, washing clothes in the nearby stream, and occasionally scratching an itch from who knows what kind of bug or cootie or you-name-it, puts a whole different spin on my idea of the traditional Japanese lifestyle. Sometimes the educational power of going to the movies sneaks up like an unscripted itch.

  2. Full disclosure… When I took on this task I had not invested in the “Janus Box Set” so my only opportunity to watch these films was to rent them at “Blockbuster” (HA!) Or get them from “Netflix.”

    Hold on a moment, I’m just trying to imagine what it would be like for me to go up to pimply faced 16 year old at my local “Blockbuster” asking for this film.

    “Uh, yeah, do you have “The Story of Floating weeds?” I ask

    “Weeds? You want that HBO show?”

    “No, no, it’s a Japanese film. Silent. Made in 1934.”

    “Silent?”

    “You know, with NO WORDS.”

    “I’ve got Pineapple Express. That’s about weed.”

    “No, no, Story of Floating Weeds. Not a Judd Apatow comedy.”

    “It’s a comedy?”

    “ARGH!!”

    Okay, I digress. The point is, I get my films from “Netflix.” As great as “Netflix” is, they don’t have some of the films in this collection so when I jumped on to get “Floating Weeds” I took what they had, which was the 1934 version. I did NOT realize that Ozu had directed a 1959 version and that it was, basically, a remake (or as Disney would say today: A “reimagining”…sigh, “Escape to Floating Weeds.”)

    It wasn’t until I had finished my review that I realized that the film Jason was going to watch was the 1959 version and I was stuck with watching and reviewing the 1934 version. This made for an interesting thought, though – as to how different WOULD they be? Since Jason did not see the 1934 version and I didn’t see the 1959 version – you’ll just have to read the reviews and then decide for yourself which version you want to watch.

    “The Story of Floating Weeds” is a simple story beautifully told. Filmed in 1934 it is a silent Japanese film.

    The story is about a small town in Japan where a traveling acting troupe shows up to spend a year, or so, performing. Seems the leader of the troupe had a bit of a dalliance with a local restaurant owner and had sired a child. That child is now a nice young man of 18 (or so). He has been told his father was a civil servant who died (yeah, better that than the bastard son of an ACTOR!). Still, he is blissfully ignorant when his “uncle” shows up.

    The “uncle” and the son bond over fishing, games and eating corn-on-the-cob.

    Once the group sets up to perform, they steal money from one of the child actors to buy things, put on a show and then get bogged down in a rain storm that won’t allow them to perform. Why…? I don’t rightly know, but where-ever it is they are performing, rain comes through the roof. 1934 must not have been a banner year for Japanese roofing contractors.

    The Father, leaving his troupe to suffer a boring existence in the theatre, hooks back up with his ex. (Okay, not LITERALLY hooking back up, but just hanging out, having some tea, wearing a thing on his head and bonding with his son.)

    Problem, though, is that his current girlfriend (who is also part of the troupe) gets wind of this gets jealous. She shows up to find the Father and his Ex hanging out and having a laugh (in the warm and un-rained-on comfort of her restaurant). Talking to another actress, she pays the actress some cold hard cash to pretend to like his son. Why? Possibly to break his heart like the father was breaking hers.

    Angry and frustrated by their situation, the actress (or is it the mother?) threatens to tell the boy the truth about everything but the father just won’t have that. Better the boy be hidden from all that (THE SCANDAL!).

    So now the film is working on two fronts. Front 1. When will the boy find out that his “uncle” is really his father? Front 2. When will the boy find out that his new love interest is playing him like a Japanese ceremonial drum?

    Of course the woman falls in love with the boy (and his bike) and decides she wants to stay. In fact, due to the weather, the troupe needs to disband and go their separate ways. Even this recession is damaging 75 year old acting troupes traveling through small towns in Japan.

    With this revelation the mother says that they can finally all live together again. That the boy is old enough to know the truth that all can be right with the world. But the father just can’t deal with that.

    When the father finds out that his current girlfriend is trying to hurt the boy with the other actress, a good old fashion beat down happens and the boy comes to her defense. But, the truth is out now. Not only IS he is father, he’s been sending money all along to help the boy get through school.

    Devastated, the boy runs away to…upstairs? I wasn’t really sure.

    The young girl, though, is distraught and the Father suggests that she stay there.

    He returns to what is left of the troupe (he sold off all the costumes and props) and his current girlfriend and they reconcile over a couple pipe puffs and decide to create another troupe with a few remaining members.

    Everyone will be okay.

    WHAT I LIKED:

    The first thing that stunned me was the quality of the film. By GOD how Janus/Criterion found a print this good is beyond my complete comprehension. It. Is. Stunning.

    The story was great, and, like I said: “A simple story, beautifully told.”

    I also thought it was funny that when the “dialogue cards” would pop up, there would be 15 letters (words?) in Japanese Kanji and the English equivalent would be something like: “What?”

    The use of props was also a great visual. The boy’s bike, the little boy’s “piggy bank,” the bearded head statue, etc. A great use of visuals to link with certain characters and locations.

    Acting was good, not too over-the-top, just very good.

    WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

    Well…there were some “beat-downs” of women, lots of slapping around and, of course, the women often called the father, Master – which just doesn’t sit too well with me in Seattle in 2009…but, what can I do about that now?

    BOTTOM LINE:

    Really, really, great. Certainly not a film I would see if I wasn’t taking part in this adventure and a reminder of what is great about cinema. Even 75 year old cinema.

    ADDENDUM:

    After reading Jason’s review, I realize I got the better end of this deal. The exterior visuals in the 1934 film were, of course, in black-and-white – not cluttered with Technicolor. The 1934 film is also 30 minutes shorter than the 1959 version but it sounds like they’re almost exactly the same in all other aspects. The static shots didn’t bother me as much as they seemed to bug Jason but…I think if I had to put up with another 30 minutes of static shots…maybe the film would have lost some of its charm.

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