johnlink ranks UMARETE WA MITA KEREDO (I WAS BORN, BUT…) (1932)

Not that this blog is lighting the internet on fire (which would be something to see), but something tells me that this ranking of a 1932 silent Japanese film won’t be one of my most read reviews. Which is too bad, because this film is actually pretty darn good. As a guy with a film degree, I was always ashamed that I hadn’t seen an Ozu film. So I corrected that with this viewing.

I watched UMARETE WA MITA KEREDO (I WAS BORN, BUT…) (1932) on 1.20.11. It was my first viewing of the film.

The famous Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is best known for his more epic works (i.e. SEVEN SAMURAI), but Yasujiro Ozu is the Japanese filmmaker known as the ‘Slice of Life’ specialist. This tale of a family who has just moved to a suburb is exactly that: A slice of life. The major conflict is that the two young boys must learn to cope with bullies as they learn their father is considered a clown at work. If that doesn’t sound exciting… well, it’s not.

Yet somehow, Ozu maintains a continual interest as the boys wander the suburbs. Sometimes they get into a little mischief, sometimes the mischief happens to them. But it is consistently engaging.

Ozu chose to do this as a silent film even though talkies had been the norm for several years by 1932. He felt as though he had not yet mastered silent film, and didn’t want to take that step forward yet. The reward we get is a meticulously shot film. He starts by jumping the 180 degree line in the very first couple of shots. A small thing, sure, but it establishes that we are going to have to stay on our toes in a visual sense. The tracking shots and the use of mise-en-scen are very sophisticated, and are done to perfection a decade before Welles ushered in the modern era of filmmaking with CITIZEN KANE.

I just loved the relationship of the little boys. One, who is maybe ten years old, is a couple of years older than the other. The younger one mimics his brother doing everything. It is endearing, consistant, and (in the scene when they are disciplined by their father) both touching and hilarious. There is a very rich tradition of visual style in the Japanese theater, and a few of those symbolic acting gestures, as in an overexaggerated motion to signal crying, don’t come across as false when used by the young boys, but as innocent.

I’m not sure if I can put my finger on why this film is so good. I wouldn’t say it is a must see per se, but it is absolutely watchable, and absolutely worthwhile. The silent nature of it doesn’t detract from the pacing, as a minimal number of title cards are used. This certainly made me understand why Ozu is so well regarded, and it makes me want to see more of his work.





~ by johnlink00 on January 20, 2011.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks UMARETE WA MITA KEREDO (I WAS BORN, BUT…) (1932)”

  1. Just letting you know that someone read your Ozu review. He’s one of my all time favorite directors. Isn’t it amazing how relatable this film is after all the changes families, cultures, and technology have experienced throughout the generations? At its core Ozu just expresses basic human interactions we all can identify with.

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