The rootless beings of the title are a performance troupe in post war Japan, moving perpetually through the country as happy wanderers. Returning to a rural island after twelve years they amuse themselves with sake and romance. Yet the troupe’s master hides a secret. He fathered a boy here many years ago and this mystery is disastrously unpicked by his jealous mistress. Sound unremarkable? Well, this is Ozu, one of cinema’s grand masters.
With his low slung static shots and sculptor’s touch he chips away to the absolute truth of the human condition. The furtive father’s pride in his illegitimate son is heartbreaking; a young actress’s pain at her transient existence equally so. She (a young Ayako Wakao) is a floating weed, never destined to take root. Touching set-pieces such as two partners divided by a wall of rain remind us that although often playing like a gentle French comedy, this film can cut to the bone when it chooses. [Alan Bett]