I Was Born, But...

I Was Born, But... ★★★½

My only other Ozu film before this was GOOD MORNING, which I didn't even realize was a but of a remake of THIS film. And I adore Good Morning, so what did I think of this much earlier stab at Ozu's exploration of family, class, and cultural dynamics?

It's...of its time. I'm one of those people who can never quite believe silent films can run for full feature lengths. The format seems tailor made for shorts and cartoons, or comedy "features" that are essentially a series of shorter vignettes thematically strung together.

But "I Was Born, But..." handles its length well - the style isn't something that stood out as anything particular to the director, yet the slow bleeding of the adult world into these childrens' world is handled with remarkable nuance and craft. Essentially a movie that follows the disillusionment of two brothers as they move to a richer suburb (father gots a promotion!) and soon learn that all they've been taught and told, scolded about and instructed upon, are kinda b.s. The adults both do and don't follow their own advice, and often aren't as successful or as established as they are compelled to act. All things that we, as adults, know and acknowledge, but there's something about watching kids realize these fundamental truths of society that is always engaging, if not heartbreaking.

A many of my fellow Collabers mentioned, this was made just as the Japanese war machine was building steam and preparing to break with international law and knowingly perform large scale war cimes throughout the Asian Pacific and eventually Europe and the US as well. The kids in this film often talk about wanting to be "generals" and other such military idolatry, which is common for all kids in all cultures at all times, but KNOWING what was just around the corner for these characters (and the actual child actors, too!) is...it colors the whole experience. A lot.

All said, I much prefer the cultural criticism of GOOD MORNING. It's a culture closer to my own, in the modern day. And by that time Ozu was an absolute "auteur" and his style is stamped throughout. I WAS BORN, BUT... is a well made, effective piece from the silent era. But there's nothing here that elevates it beyond the "well made". But defintiely worth the watch if/when you can find it.

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