Sunday, September 09, 2007

I Was Born. But...

Ozu's silent film I was born, but... may not exactly be in the same class as his late string of masterpieces like Tokyo Story or Late Spring but it is still an important early achievement. The film shows how early in his career he had already found his subject and style. Also unlike his later films it is pretty damn funny. I hadn't laughed so much in a movie theatre in some time. And just when everybody had their guards down with all the comedy in typical Ozu style the film also shows the darker side of things and breaks your heart.

The film is about two kid brothers who have just moved to a suburb because their father wants to live closer to his boss. He thinks he can influence his boss in this way much easily and gain promotions and favours in the office. The two kids have lots of problems with the local bullies and much of the film is about how they find ways to get around, ingratiate and dominate the other kids. One of those neighbourhood kids is the son of their father's boss and just when the brothers have become the absolute boss of the neighbourhood they are invited to a weekend party at the boss's house. There at a home-movie screening they see their father indulging in obsequious antics to please his boss and their self-esteem and more importantly the respect they had for their father is shattered. The father tries to explain the ways of the world to them but the kids refuse to understand and more family drama ensues.

Though the tone of the film remains comic, even slapstick, throughout; it ultimately ends with a feeling of sadness. In one of the scenes towards the end after being provoked into a self-reflection by the incidents with the kids, the father confesses his fears and anxieties to his wife saying if they will also grow up to be losers like him.

More details about the film here and here. The scene where the kids see their father playing joker for his boss here.

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