I Was Born, But...

I Was Born, But... ★★★★

7th Yasijurō Ozu (after Late Spring, An Autumn Afternoon, Equinox Flower, Good Morning, Tokyo Story and Early Summer, before Tokyo Twilight, Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, I Graduated But..., Floating Weeds and Late Autumn)

Coming-of-age films never really connect with me, mainly because I never really was a kid. I didn't do the kid things of going around in gangs or riding bikes like you see in the movies. I sat in my room and read books or played Gran Turismo 4. I didn't grow up- I was just born Old. Read into that what you will, but I always feel closer to adults in any film, and I Was Born is no exception. Rewatching it after a couple of years, the plight of the father feels like a poignant early example of Ozu's 'mono no aware', or an acceptance of the impermanence and frustrations of life. Ozu neatly undercuts the father's sense of importance through the home movies section, where he makes a fool of himself for the camera, but it's a gentle irony that doesn't make him into a grotesque caricature. Rather, it's an awareness that in order to advance himself, he must sacrifice his dignity, with no solid prospect of him getting anywhere further up the ladder.

This is perhaps the biggest difference between I Was Born and its remake, Good Morning. While Good Morning focuses on the two brothers and their friends primarily, with occasional asides to the mothers of the neighbourhood, I Was Born takes care to show the emotional life of the father, especially when he cries over his sleeping children, ashamed at the way he has lost their respect. It's a deeply moving scene, but one that marks a significant shift in approaches between young and old Ozu. By the 50s, Ozu's characters no longer have the optimism of their 30s predecessors. Befitting an older filmmaker, they have to accept the singular unfairness of existence, even if it ultimately means a quiet and lonely end to their lives; the parents in Late Spring and Late Autumn, for example. The father in I Was Born resolves to do better and to make sure his kids do better. The clock has run out for the characters in later films, and all they can do is acknowledge is that 'Life is Disappointing'. Which it is, let's be honest.

The father's optimism feels even more bitterly ironic when considering the time period. In 8 years time, many of the boys in the neighbourhood would be going to fight in the Pacific Theatre, both characters and actors. How many would come back, and what would they be like afterwards? A very sad coming of age indeed.

Ozu in Order:
1. Tokyo Story
2. An Autumn Afternoon
3. Late Spring
4. Equinox Flower
5. Late Autumn
6. I Was Born, But…
7. Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family
8. Good Morning
9. Early Summer
10. Tokyo Twilight
11. I Graduated, But...
12. Floating Weeds

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