I Was Born, But...

I Was Born, But... ★★★★½

Yasujirō Ozu's trademark is an understated, thoughtful attitude towards everyday life in modern Japan, and this is in evidence as early as 1932's I Was Born, But..., a silent comedy that, while it otherwise only hints at what would become the director's defining characteristics, is charming, poignant and peaceful all the way through.

It's unique among the Ozu films I've seen so far in that it's told largely from a child's perspective - or, more accurately, from two children's shared perspective. A pair of brothers have recently moved to what is apparently a Tokyo suburb for the convenience of their father's work, and it's not long before a gang of local boys has set its sights on tormenting them. After being scolded by their father for not attending school on account of the threat of bullying, they decide they have to assert their supremacy. They do so, but that's only the start of their problems.

The film isn't much of a challenge to watch, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't have an emotional impact on me. Like always, Ozu conveys the story in such simple, stripped-down terms that it's easy to miss what he's getting at, but the mere composition of a shot is enough to move the viewer. The film is believably invested in childhood in a way that too few older films are, but it's when the film deviates from their point of view and takes on that of their parents that it becomes even richer. Like any work from Yasujirō Ozu, it's worth savouring.

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