Yasujiro Ozu is one of the world’s beloved directors. Having made many films since the 1920’s up to his final film “An Autumn Afternoon” in 1962, his works have been appreciated by viewers and critics for his family comedies but also his serious family storylines such as “Late Spring”, “Early Summer” and “Tokyo Story” (to name a few).
As for “I Was Born, But…”, the film was Ozu’s 24th film and the first of his six films to win a Kinema Junpo Critics Prize. The film received a loosely made remake in Technicolor by Ozi for the 1959 film “Good Morning” and is regarded as his most popular silent film that continually received circulation since its release.
“I Was Born, But…” focuses on a family from Azabu who has moved to a new home in the Tokyo suburbs. The Yoshi family which include the two parents – Kennosuke (played by Tatsuo Saito) and his wife (played by Mitsuko Yoshikawa), the older son Ryoichi (played by Hideo Sugawara), young son Keiji (played by Tomio Aoki) and their dog.
When it comes to Ozu’s silent films, “I Was Born, But…” is among Yasujiro Ozu’s most popular and is the earliest Ozu print in regular circulation. As mentioned earlier, Ozu successfully pulls of this film that could be seen as complex but with good pacing, storytelling and acting, are we convinced of the relationships between brothers and family as well as the fear the kids have towards the bullying neighborhood kids. And even nearly 80 years later, this storyline continues to be prevalent today as many families are no different today than how the Yoshi family are in this film.
The film was loosely remade in 1959 for Ozu’s “Good Morning” but as their are similarities, both films are quite different from each other. In “I Was Born, But…”, the children are quick to confront their father about his career situation and what makes it so stingily hurt is that the father knows that the children are right. Even if you give your all in school, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a high level executive and there is this strong connection with the children in this film (especially since television or major technology is not in the forefront of the film).
Whereas in “Good Morning”, the two sons confront their father that other kids own a television set except them and the kids go on a hunger strike to get their parents to recognize their anger. There is still a family connection but you notice that in “Good Morning”, technology has started to seep into the family culture and you see the children more drawn towards the television set away from their family. So, both films do have its similarities but also their differences especially of suburban Japan within that 27-year time span.
But what is most interesting is that for Ozu cinema fans, we know how he takes the concept of family especially between parent and children so seriously during the 1950′s and later, so to see something that happened decades earlier in silent form and see where it first started, for fans is quite a treat. Where in his later films, the dialogue is quite important to feel the pain between parents and children, even in these silent films, surprisingly the viewer can feel the sting through the children’s harsh words to their father.
Yasujiro Ozu’s “I Was Born, But…” is highly recommended!