I Was Born But... (Umarete wa mita keredo)
I Was Born But... is a comedy, but a “serious” one. A typical wage earner moves to the suburbs with his typical wife and two delightfully a-typical sons, aged eight and ten. The boys pass quickly through the rites of neighborhood initiation, but are confronted with their father's politics of submissiveness when asked to cow-tow to the boss's prissy son. The recognition of the falseness of adult behavior which they at first innocently reflect, then challenge, and finally must accept, marks another sort of initiation for the boys, their loss of innocence.
Though the film is silent, one can almost hear the characters' voices, particularly that of nine-year-old Tokkankozo, whose ingenious antics steal the show. (An Ozu discovery, and one of his favorite performers during the thirties, he appeared under his real name, Tomio Aoki, in such films as Imamura's Pigs and Battleships (1961) and Yamamoto's The Family (1974).)
Considered the first of Ozu's great films, I Was Born But... is an early classic of the shomin-geki genre, films about middle class manners and mores. Donald Richie writes, “In this film, Ozu brought together in almost perfect form the various elements which made up his style, his personal way of looking at the world.”
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