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Monday, September 14, 2009

UMARETTE WA MITA KEREDO / I WAS BORN BUT . . . (1932)

Just before Talkies reached Japan, Yasujiro Ozu won three consecutive Best Picture awards beginning with this startlingly funny domestic comedy, taken from the same source material he would reconfigure as GOOD MORNING/’59 late in his career. It’s about two young brothers who’d rather play hooky than face all those bullies at their new suburban school. Naturally, their dad finds out what’s going on and sees that they return to class. Soon, the brothers have managed to turn the tide of peer pressure in their favor with their schoolmates, but at the same time they’ve become increasingly aware of how their father bows & scrapes, rather than confronts, similar obstacles at his workplace. What’s the point of gaining neighborhood bragging rights when you know your father is a wuss? While largely focusing on the fights, friendships & shifting allegiances of the kids, Ozu touches on broader issues, all within a story line & comic sequences that could have come from an OUR GANG short. Though the dramatic balance of GOOD MORNING, along with much of the distinctive Ozu directorial style has yet to crystalize, and his use of parallel editing between kids at play & Dad at work is too simplistic, the film remains a breezy delight with a thoughtful third act that enriches all the hijinks without seeming to change gears.

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