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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

I Was Born, But... (1932)



Reviews and Comments

This gentle silent comedy by the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu is interesting in how well it captures both the playfulness and the seriousness of childhood. Few movies portray childhood well. Most movie kids are really just tiny adults. But even most of the movies that avoid this trap miss one key thing: child's play is serious business. We can watch this movie as a good-natured work of humor, but it's no comedy to the kids in the story. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

The story is loose and episodic, but all the events in the film contribute toward that first erosion of innocence. The key story is the final third of the film, when the kids realize that their dad isn't the top dog but has a boss he must serve. They're ashamed. They fear for their own futures. I'd have handled that situation differently, but it's interesting that the movie doesn't try to resolve the situation with a speech or a revelation that teaches the kids how to feel about their dad. They simply come to terms with the way the adult world is, this world that they will have to enter themselves one day.

By and large, this is a happy film. There are few if any outright laughs, but a lot of smiles. Yet, reflecting on it afterward, isn't it just a little sad?