The Japanese House: I Was Born, But... (U) + live piano and Benshi narration
25 June 2017
This early comedy from Yasujirô Ozu focuses on the Yoshii family – dad Kennosuke, his homemaker wife, and two sons Keiji and Ryoichi – who have just moved from Tokyo’s crowded city centre to a suburban development.
Straight away the two boys start slugging it out to find a place in the pecking order among the neighbourhood kids. One of those deposed by their wily antics is Taro, son of Mr Iwasaki, the owner of the company where Kennosuke works as a humble salaryman.
Then one night the Yoshii family are invited round to the Iwasaki’s, where the boys are mortified to see their dad dutifully kowtowing to his boss: “You tell us to become somebody, but you’re nobody. Why do you have to bow so much to Taro’s father?” Kennosuke’s attempts to explain the realities of the adult world to his sons leads to some soul-searching of his own.
One of the few surviving examples of Ozu’s silent period filmmaking, like his later films this one focuses on the internal dynamics of a single family unit as a way of drawing out broader generalisations about contemporary Japanese society, and uses the low-angle camera shots of domestic interiors that would become his stylistic trademark.
Japan 1932 Dir Yasujirô Ozu 90 min
With thanks to the Japan Foundation, Shindofuji Ireland and the National Film Center, Tokyo