TheDionysiac’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Don't become miserable apple polishers like me, boys!"
Adolescence, expectancy and disappointment clash, in Yasujirō Ozu's fantastic 1932 film 'I Was Born, But'.
The film tells the story of a family with two boys who have moved to a new neighborhood and have to settle in. On their way to and from work the two brothers are bullied by a gang of children, and they skip school the first day so they won't be beat up. All the children argue about who has the most important and powerful father, but when the boys are invited over to a film night with some of the parents they witness their usually stern father ingratiate himself and clown around in front of his executives. Realizing his low status they throw a tantrum when they get back home, break stuff, and go on a hunger strike, before getting a spanking from their father. But after the boys go to sleep the father admits to his wife that he doesn't really enjoy his work either, and wishes bigger and better for his boys.
I be most people can remember some vague notion of when they discovered when their parents were fallible, or simply mere mortals after all. I used to think my own father could do no wrong, and that he was the most intelligent and sharp thinkers that ever lived. I guess that kind of worship is built in to us in some form. That we want to believe that we are part of something important and worthwhile, even from birth. Something that sets us apart from the other kids. How we emulate and absorb the power dynamics we perceive from adult life around us, and also how we almost always learn the wrong lessons from early on about power and status, no matter what our parents try to tell us.
'I Was Born, But…' makes all this crystal clear, with very simple tools. Ozu gets incredible facial expressions and human body language performances, that feel extremely natural and believable. A frown, a stare. Someone adjusting their hat. All these small gestures and mannerisms add up to something universal, yet very special. It is a story about coming to grips with the first impressions of adulthood, peeking behind the veil of what has been your entire worldview so far. On its surface it is a innoscent tale, but it hints at something darker, and I have to say that I really loved it. This small glimpse into prewar, daily life in Japan just charmed me to no end.
Ps: I also can't get out of my mind that 13 years after this film came out, a lot of these young boys playing the kids had gone through WWII as young adults, and some of them probably didn't even survive the experience.
Watched with the Collab .