232 A Story of Floating Weeds & Floating Weeds

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Martha
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232 A Story of Floating Weeds & Floating Weeds

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:16 pm

A Story of Floating Weeds/Floating Weeds: Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu

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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 reunities 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.

Collector’s set includes

A Story of Floating Weeds

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, in Yasujiro Ozu’s 1934 silent classic.

- New high-definition digital transfer with restored image and sound
- Audio commentary by Japanese film historian Donald Richie
- New score by noted silent-film composer Donald Sosin
- New and improved English subtitle translation by Donald Richie
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

Floating Weeds

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, in Yasujiro Ozu’s color collaboration with the celebrated cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa.

- New high-definition digital transfer with restored image and sound
- Audio commentary by film critic Roger Ebert
- Original theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation by Donald Richie
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

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Pinback
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#2 Post by Pinback » Fri Feb 25, 2005 7:58 pm

I finally got round to listening to Donald Richie's commentary on A Story of Floating Weeds, and I've just got to check: there's no option to remove the background score during the commentary, right? I found the score for the film incredibly irritating and distracting, and much prefer watching the film totally silent. I'm annoyed that Richie's commentary is not spoken over the silent film. Even at the lower volume, and during a spoken commentary, I still found the score intrusive and distracting. Rather than simply moaning, I just want to check that this is, in fact, the only way to hear Richie's commentary, and that I didn't just press the wrong button or something...

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#3 Post by zedz » Fri Feb 25, 2005 8:29 pm

Not an answer to your question, I'm afraid, but it does make sense to have the music track as the default setting, however much one might dislike it. Although we can't know for sure what musical accompaniment Ozu would have preferred for his film, we can be sure that he never intended it to be heard silent! Which is why I feel a little uneasy when I hear people suggest silence as the best audio option for any pre-sound film.

I would love to see multiple score options as the standard for future Criterion 'silent' releases. The forthcoming Potemkin practically demands it.

Anyway, I don't claim to have any great understanding of the technical issues, but I believe that commentary tracks are just another audio track (like an English dub or mono track), not an overlay of any of the existing audio tracks, so you'd actually need to have two separate commentary tracks, with and without music, to deliver the silent option (and I doubt even Criterion would go to this amount of trouble).

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#4 Post by javelin » Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:04 pm

But you think they could just knock one down in the mix, right? I mean, I've seen this done before where the sound of the film is essentially muted during commentary.

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#5 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Feb 25, 2005 11:10 pm

zedz wrote:Although we can't know for sure what musical accompaniment Ozu would have preferred for his film, we can be sure that he never intended it to be heard silent!
We can be absolutely certain that Ozu never contemplated a score remotely likely the one used by Criterion. We also know, in general terms, what kind of accompaniment was used for films like this. There was narration and relatively light, fairly contemporary (stretching back to turn-of-the-centuryish) music -- that was definitely not wall-to-wall.

Ozu would have had little control over this -- but the studios didn't particularly like the mandatory (unionized) narrators -- and many directors worked hard to limit the narrators' ability to deform their films. (Some directors liked such narration -- but there is no evidence Ozu did).

In any event, the score used by Criterion is unsuitable -- and distracting. Silence is definitely preferable.

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#6 Post by ando » Wed Sep 28, 2005 4:17 pm

I received a copy of Ozu's 1934 edition. Anyone have any comments on how the two compare?

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#7 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:40 pm

The earlier version is more somber overall (despite bits of humor), with more restrained performances. The latter has more flamboyant (but still wonderful) performances.

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#8 Post by the dancing kid » Wed Sep 28, 2005 6:52 pm

On the subject of benshi narration, has there ever been a DVD release that came with an audio track of a benshi speaking over the film? I've seen a few films this way on VHS (including Ozu's 'I Was Born But...') but I've never found it on a DVD. It's an interesting piece of film history and definitely played a huge role in Japanese film production and exhibition back in the day.

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#9 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Sep 28, 2005 7:32 pm

There's a DVD-rom of short clips of silent Japanese films with benshi narration -- but no DVDs of whole benshi-narrated Japanese films. Matsuda has done some benshi-narrated Keaton film DVDs, though.

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#10 Post by blindside8zao » Wed Sep 28, 2005 10:13 pm

color does add a dimension to his compositions.

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#11 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 29, 2005 8:31 am

Yes, Ozu adopted color with great gusto. (His delay in adopting color may have been because he was waiting for color film stock that he thought was good enough to capture what he wanted to do) It simply made his game of playing with forms and patterns more interesting.

Naruse, on the other hand, was far more interested in capturing the effects of (seemingly realistic) light. Accordingly, he was never really happy about having to shoot films in color.

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#12 Post by Steven H » Thu Sep 29, 2005 8:23 pm

After the recent screening of Stories of Floating Weeds (NYFF 110 Shochiku) Sosin talked about how Ritchie had given him some notes concerning the playing of music during Ozu's silent films (something about not playing music *with* the film, or underlining emotion, but rather keeping it bright and cheerful throughout.) I think this was basically him admitting he had done wrong for the DVD, as the live version was radically different from the recorded one. Better, but still not appropriate.

Also, I was sitting next to Joseph Anderson, co-writer with Ritchie for The Japanese Film, and he said that if it were up to Ozu he would have "used American music" from the time, to play during his films. That's about as close to the so-called horse's mouth as you get. I can just imagine Lady and the Beard with a jazzy mono version of "I'm Just Wild About Harry", "Jeepers Creepers", or "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B".

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#13 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:22 pm

The first sound film from Japan (Gosho's "Madamu to nyobo") made lots of use of jazzy music -- and featured the cast humming and later singing "My Blue Heaven".

I've used Gershwin's short piano pieces etc -- as do-it-yourself accompaniment for Ozu's silents. This works well enough. ;~}

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#14 Post by Steven H » Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:16 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:The first sound film from Japan (Gosho's "Madamu to nyobo") made lots of use of jazzy music -- and featured the cast humming and later singing "My Blue Heaven".

I've used Gershwin's short piano pieces etc -- as do-it-yourself accompaniment for Ozu's silents. This works well enough. ;~}
It was pretty funny, too. Well it wasn't the "first sound film", but I'm not going to nitpick (except for that, I guess.) Gershwin would be perfect for Ozu, some of it, that is. One thing I like about seeing more films from around the 30s Golden Age is, even though many of these directors are very good, you get a better idea of just *how* good Ozu was. More and more I'm reminded of this (though Yamanaka's three films keep my attention just as well, sometimes more so.)

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#15 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 30, 2005 8:30 am

I guess Gosho's film is most accurately described as "the first fully-succesful use of sound in a Japanese feature film" -- but that's a bit awkward to say/write.

Madamu to nyobo might be my favorite Gosho film (at least so far). I love Tanaka's Osaka-ish accent in this (apparently she hadn't gotten rid of it yet).

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#16 Post by yukiyuki » Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:15 am

phew when will criterion release Umarete wa mita keredo

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#17 Post by ando » Sat Oct 01, 2005 10:51 am

One of the more curious aspects of the composition in the original version is the blur effect along the periphery of the frame, especially early on in the movie. Combined with the lighting, which is conspicuously directed toward the center of the frame, the composition appears to be deliberately shot to look "dated" - the kind of compositions you see in still photography (especially portraits) from the late 19th century.

This approach seems "sentimentalized" or made to look a little too precious. Yet it parallels, or perhaps, compliments the ambitions of Kihachi and Otsune, the parents of Shinkichi, who have a vision of their son as the perfect embodiment of their own ideals. It's an interesting device, especially when juxtaposed to the more realistic or straightforward and even deep-focus captures, like the scenes involving the tribulations of the acting troupe and provides the only real dynamism (as far as I'm concerned) in the film.

The plot, simple as it is, seems to merely serve as a device to propel the narrative and as the characters are simply drawn (as written and performed), it leads me to believe that Ozu is asking us to consider other things. Certainly, the economy of his approach, using visual cues to suggest situations, for instance, allows the audience to consider the significance of the material presented (in other words, because of Ozu's economy we have the leisure to consider it), but I can't say that this subtlety leads to revelation. It seems to me that in the end we are practically where we started, despite the ambitions of the characters, which is perhaps all that Ozu intended.

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#18 Post by psufootball07 » Tue May 19, 2009 7:33 am

Wow, I will have to listen to the Ebert Commentary tonight, but was I blown away by this film. I also laughed a bit when the actor in the troupe was visiting the town members and when asked who he was, he replied, "Toshiro Mifune". I was pleasantly surprised when Chishu Ryu appeared, if only for a brief amount of time. Overall I would rate this as my favorite Ozu in color, just ahead of An Autumn Afternoon. I have yet to see a silent Ozu so hopefully that will be a pleasant journey as well when I watch A Story of Floating Weeds.

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#19 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 19, 2009 9:01 am

psufootball07 wrote:Wow, I will have to listen to the Ebert Commentary tonight, but was I blown away by this film. I also laughed a bit when the actor in the troupe was visiting the town members and when asked who he was, he replied, "Toshiro Mifune". I was pleasantly surprised when Chishu Ryu appeared, if only for a brief amount of time. Overall I would rate this as my favorite Ozu in color, just ahead of An Autumn Afternoon. I have yet to see a silent Ozu so hopefully that will be a pleasant journey as well when I watch A Story of Floating Weeds.
I believe the actual actor mentioned was Onoe Matsunosuke (the first great star of Japanese cinema) not Mifune. The subtitling here cheats a bit.

I think this is one of the best-looking color films ever (although all of Ozu's color films look great).

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#20 Post by psufootball07 » Tue May 19, 2009 11:26 am

Yeah, I agree the opening shots are timeless. However the shouting match scene outside the house of the masters son and ex-girlfriend was shot brilliantly.

Also I agree that the first word was definitely NOT Toshiro, the second somewhat sounded like Mifune. So thanks for that little tidbit, maybe the CC just loves Mifune too much.

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#21 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 19, 2009 5:23 pm

The opening and the shouting match in the rain are two great examples of how a great director and an inspired cinematograpjer (Kazuo Miyagawa) managed to collaborate brilliantly. While following Ozu's "rules", Miyagawa creates the illusion of his more typical, more fluid shooting style.

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#22 Post by Jack Phillips » Tue May 19, 2009 7:05 pm

psufootball07 wrote:I think this is one of the best-looking color films ever. . . .
True, but the Criterion transfer doesn't do it justice. The Japanese release is superior in this regard.

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#23 Post by zedz » Tue May 19, 2009 7:54 pm

psufootball07 wrote:Also I agree that the first word was definitely NOT Toshiro, the second somewhat sounded like Mifune. So thanks for that little tidbit, maybe the CC just loves Mifune too much.
I think this bit of non-literalism is fair enough, since the meaning for Japanese audiences would have been "famous Japanese actor that this guy clearly is not", which limits the options for referents drastically for a Western audience.

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#24 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 19, 2009 10:31 pm

Sorry, I don't buy false substitutions. But it's not as bad as using the wrong Hepburn -- as occurs on another Criterion Ozu release. ;~}

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Re: 232 A Story of Floating Weeds and Floating Weeds

#25 Post by psufootball07 » Wed May 20, 2009 8:26 am

Was that Hepburn one on Early Summer? I believe so, but it could've also been Late Spring or An Autumn Afternoon.

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