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Repertory Picks

Silent Ozu on the Potomac

Tomorrow evening, in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of American History’s Warner Bros. Theater will host a screening of Yasujiro Ozu’s 1934 silent A Story of Floating Weeds with live accompaniment by guitarist Alex de Grassi. Made two years before the Japanese master’s transition to sound, the film follows itinerant acting-troupe leader Kihachi as he returns to a mountain village he left long ago, reuniting with an old flame and the son they had together—and spurring Kihachi’s current lover, a member of his acting troupe, to take revenge. With A Story of Floating Weeds, at the time one of his most commercially and critically successful films, Ozu began to crystallize many elements of what would become his mature style, among them the static camera pitched at a low angle, the elliptical narrative structure, and the recurrent theme of fractured families. The director even found himself drawn back to this foundational work toward the end of his career, remaking the material in color and sound as Floating Weeds (1959), whose deviations from the earlier version are examined in Donald Richie’s liner essay for our dual release.

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