Directed by: YASUJIRO OZU
1932, TSPDT Rank #328
As the earliest Yasujiro Ozu film on the 1,000 Greatest Films (as well as the only one of his silent films to make it on to the list), I Was Born, But... presents Ozu's style as it was still in the process of developing. It's also much lighter in mood than most of Ozu's later, more well-known dramas, highlighting the humorous antics of its child protagonists, as well as their first glimpses of the adult world, which ultimately provide a crushing realization of their father's fallibility. However, while the film initially shows a fair amount of comic promise, it suffers from a plodding middle section which slows its momentum considerably, as too many supporting child characters are introduced, and their comedic scenes become increasingly repetitive and inane in nature. This makes the film feel a bit more uneven than Ozu's later work, although the final half-hour is powerful enough to make up for it.
What ultimately makes this film stand out, despite its flaws, is Ozu's ability to convey a child's perspective while juxtaposing it with that of the adults who effectively rule their lives. Ozu's trademark low-angle visual style works perfectly for showing the world as seen through a child's eyes, but his ability to gracefully switch between low-angle point-of-view shots and long shots, which emphasize the children's small size in comparison to their environment and their parents, lends an air of sophistication to the film which will be instantly recognizable to those familiar with Ozu's later films. Ozu had yet to perfect the pacing of his films, but his ability to convey family relationships with unmatched level of intimacy and warmth was already in full view with this early silent film.