Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ukigusa Monogatari (The Story of Floating Weeds) and Ukigusa (Floating Weeds)

Thanks to my posting here, a friend called me with the good news that I could loan a dvd with these two films by no one else but Yasujio Ozu. Of course I said Please!! This is a tiny summary of my first immersion into the world of Ozu.

Rarely one has the opportunity to watch two movies with the same story and by the same director. This is my first experience and has been quite an experience.

The Story of Floating Weeds is a 1934 black and white silent movie and Floating Weeds is a 1959 full color, full audio movie. Both tell the story of a troupe of traveling players that arrive to a village to perform. There the master player goes to visit his old flame and her son, who does not know that the master is his father and believes that he is his uncle. The leading actress is the mistress of the master and becomes jealous, so to humiliate the master asks another actress to seduce the master son.

Both movies have many similarities beyond the story and the use of still camera by Ozu, but they are quite different like if they were two different tales. The 1934 version is very serious and dramatic; the 1959 remake (called like this by Ozu) is comic in the right places and dramatic in the right places. One thing called my attention and is the music score in the 1959 remake that sounded like an Italian score and to me, it was so happy and sort of out of place within this Japanese movie. But then, it does not interfere with the way the movie is and makes it even more enchanting.

There are many things I liked in the 1934 version. I have a hard time watching a silent movie as silence makes me nervous, so I watched with the 2004 score that was extremely well done to accompany what was going in the screen. I have to admit that eventually I forgot about the music as the movie became quite intense. Acting is extraordinary with few exceptions and there are beautiful scenes like when the “uncle” and the son are fly-fishing.

Then in the 1959 version color is very dramatic and intense, new actors -has only has one actor from the 1934 version the kid in the previous, here is the son- and being able to hear them speak makes a different film. Even if some critics believe that the use of color interfered with the grandness of the movie as Ozu uses color here differently than in his other films, I feel that color made this movie quite interesting specially because to me Ozu’s movies are both visual poetry and in this particular version is cinematic poetry! Just to make my point take a look at the first scene of this movie.

No, I would not go on. I’ll stop here. You have to have this experience and my only suggestion is be sure to watch first the silent movie and after the 1959 version, don’t change the order, as I believe it would make a big difference.

If you have the dvd near you, please do not hesitate to experience these amazing movies.

Many thanks to my friend for lending me this dvd from The Criterion Collection and is the number 232 just in case helps you reader to find the dvd.

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