I Was Born, But... ★★★★

Spirited, engaging, elegant silent comedy from Ozu about a pair of boys who find themselves outcasts after their dad moves them to a new town because of work opportunities. At first this is a familiar -- but inordinately charming -- exploration of kids coping with school, bullies and various childhood rites of passage, with all the amusement and integrity of Frank Borzage's impressionistic glimpses of then-modern life, then when the subject becomes the children's relationship with their father it develops seamlessly into something deeper: about pride in one's family, how money drives self-worth, and the regular humiliation of living for the status quo. It meanders a bit at the end, but the acting is so subtle, the situations and characters so believable, you feel palpably that this life will go on long after the fade... and the film's themes are so universal that they have managed not to date even a bit, right down to the use of clowning on camera as a sign of deeper insecurity. Indeed, I don't think "silent" is a shortcoming -- rather, an art unto itself -- but this is one of the first silent films I'd advise showing to someone to convince them of the medium's dramatic possibilities; like The Lodger, it lives in the memory as a talkie, as if you could hear everything these wonderful characters were saying to each other. And, of course, it's absolutely gorgeous... so still, so natural, but so expansive as if the whole world lives within it.