Silent Treatment

A longstanding Japanese metaphor describes human beings as ukigusa: duckweed floating down the river of life, buoyed and propelled through no effort of their own, swirled, pulled, and deflected by currents beyond their ken or control.

It’s an allegory that might apply to any of us, but it captures particularly well the sort of friends who constantly crash on your couch and the itinerant kabuki troupe in Yasujirô Ozu’s 1934 silent film, A Story of Floating Weeds (Ukikusa monogatari). Viewing the arresting camerawork, subtle characterizations, and nuanced performances, you’ll feel swept along yourself by this story of partings and reunions – and of the anger, jealously, and destruction erupting when a man’s two lives collide. Grammy-nominated guitarist Alex de Grassi’s inventive live accompaniment nimbly straddles eastern and western tonalities and structures, underlining the universality of the film, which, lacking Ozu’s skill, might have devolved into melodrama or ham-fisted sentimentality.

Thu., Jan. 20, 7 p.m., 2011
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Nicholas Gerbis