I Was Born, But...

I Was Born, But... ★★★★½

Who would have thought that a 1932 silent Japanese movie about two little boys would be so entertaining? I found myself mesmerized by their antics, smiling as they made faces and moved about in unison. In the beginning it feels like a very smart version of the Little Rascals, with scenes of bullying and coping with a new school, but it evolves into more than that. The film deals with hierarchy – to their embarrassment, the boys find out their father is subordinate to the father of one of the other boys they know – which has an emphasis in Japanese culture, but boys wanting their fathers to be important is also a universal theme, and the film feels remarkably Western. To watch this film and to consider the American propaganda about the Japanese during WWII is sobering, as is the thought that the child actors would be of age for war in the years to come, but I digress a bit.

There is quite a bit to like here. The acting is fantastic, particularly for the period. At a time when overacting in Hollywood was common, here each and every performance seems pitch perfect. The endearing little boys – played by Tomio Aoki and Hideo Sugawara – are outstanding. I was also impressed by the precision of director Yasujiro Ozu’s shots. It’s really quite intelligent and charming.

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