Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This 1953 classic by Yasujiro Ozu (Floating Weeds) is a masterpiece of elegant, artistic, and human filmmaking.
An elderly couple travel to Tokyo to see their grown children, who are really too busy to be bothered with the old folks. The only real connection they make is with the widow of one of their sons who died during the war, who is still grieving but with whom they feel much closer family bond than their own children. After the elderly couple returns home following their disappointing family reunion, the grandmother dies. Now the family meets again at her funeral.
Put like this, it doesn’t seem like much. And as the informative film historian commentary makes clear, there are a multitude of references to postwar Japanese society and how it was changing, sometimes tectonically. But the people and their feelings and relationships are so honest, so universal, and so human, it is impossible to watch this film without being drawn into an appreciation of the characters’ feelings, despite language and cultural differences.
Moreover, Director Ozu’s staging and composition are simultaneously artificial and natural. Much of the film takes place within the living quarters of the different characters’ houses. The composition of scenes and shifting points of view are arrayed to provide a formality that is simultaneously natural and unforced.
As I was watching this film I was constantly struck that everything —- acting, sound, dialog, lighting, set design, camera movement (or lack thereof) —- had been pared to the absolute minimum so that a maximum attention must be placed by the viewer on the story the director is telling. Yet the viewer is unaware of being coerced or lectured to but instead becomes immersed in the feelings, human disappointments, and troubles that are being portrayed on the screen for all to see.
Copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald