I Was Born, But...

I Was Born, But... ★★★★

There is a scene in this film where the camera pans down a row of desks at the primary school before match cutting to another continuous pan down a row of office desks. The line separating men from boys isn't so great after all. The men bully, gossip and laugh together similar to the boys.

Infinitely better than GOOD MORNING (Ohayō), Ozu's sound-and-colour "remake" of this film, what this lacks in exquisite fart jokes it makes up for in the plethora of little observations on growing up and seeing the world as a little boy. It's kind of shocking how similar the experiences are between my childhood to these characters in 1930s Japan which is a testament to how simple and observant this film is written and shot. The boys are scared of bullies, try to cheat a test, argue about facts they don't know and about whose dad is the strongest. But, it's also sweetly focused on a child perspective of parents and the experience of witnessing them in the public realm for the first time and becoming aware of them as something other, and lesser, than the authoritative figure you've always known.

Watching it today, there is a tragic obliviousness in this film: this is a Depression-era Japan where the father laments his wasted life and hopes for a future more optimistic for his children. This character, like everyone making the film, had no idea the horrors that this generation would face in the coming decade. Ominous now, bittersweet then.