I Was Born, But…

Movie Information

In Brief: Simple, but engaging early Ozu film resembles nothing so much as a 90-minute Japanese variation on an Our Gang comedy. It makes a few rather bitter observations about the social hierarchy in Japan, but its most successful and appealing quality stems from the snapshot it provides of 1932 Japan.
Genre: Comedy-Drama
Director: Yasujirô Ozu
Starring: Tatsuo Saitô, Tomio Aoki, Mitsuko Yoshikawa, Hideo Sugawara, Takeshi Sakamoto, Teruyo Hayami
Rated: NR

If nothing else, Yasujirô Ozu’s I Was Born, But… (1932) proves the value of the Ozu brand name. By this I mean that this unassuming little film — little more than an extended Our Gang short with an Eastern flavor — would likely be considered little more than a curio if it bore anyone else’s signature. It’s not without its technical interest — in large measure because it at once illustrates how Westernized Japan had already become by 1932, but just how far the country lagged behind the rest of the world in terms of technical proficiency. Ozu’s first talkie was still several years away. The film — the third and final film in a series of similarly titled social comedies (that include I Graduated, But… and I Flunked, But… for 1929 and 1930 respectively) — has its slender charms in its story of two boys coming to terms with their new surroundings when their family moves to the suburbs for their father’s new job. It does, however, feel extended beyond its value and is neither better, nor deeper than the best of the Our Gang films. (In fact, it lacks the emotional impact of the very best of those films — a statement that will doubtless send the Ozu faithful after me with torches and pitchforks.) The film is more successful in its depiction of the boys’ disillusionment with their father and his position in the world, especially given the fact that the father is just as disillusioned with himself. But easily the most interesting aspect of the film is the picture it affords of the Japan of that era. That part of the film is indeed fascinating.

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present I Was Born, But… Friday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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