Umarete wa mita keredo
Silent . Black and White . 91 minutes

Shochiku Kamata Studio

Written By

Ozu Yasujiro ('James Maki')
Fushimi Akira


Mohara Hideo
Atsuta Yuharu


Satio Tatsuo (Yoshii)
Yoshikawa Mitsuko (Yoshii's Wife)
Sugawara Hideo (Yoshii's Elder Son)
Tokkan Kozo (Yoshii's Younger Son)
Sakamoto Takeshi (Iwasaki)
Hayami Teruyo (Mrs Iwasaki)
Kato Seiichi (Taro)

Yoshii and his family move to a Tokyo suburb, to the same neighborhood as his boos. His two boys are initially terrorized by the school bully, and run truant. Eventually, they beat up and usurp the bully's place, lording it over all the boys, including the boss' son. When they gatecrash a screening of the boss' home movies at his mansion, their image of their authoritative father is tarnished when they watch him playing the clown and ingratiate himself to the boss. They quarrel with him and stage a hunger strike, but differences are reconciled the next day.

Thoughts from Ozu
This film grew out of my desire to make a film about children. A story about children to begin with, but veers towards adults by the end. The tone is initially lighthearted, but halfway through a shift occurs and it ends on a bleak note. The company delayed its screening for two months on account of the "unexpectedly dark subject." Moreover, I consciously did away with fade-ins and replaced them with the cut. Henceforth, I never used such editing techniques again. In fact, neither dissolve, fade-in not fade-out can be regarded as "the grammar of film", they are no more than characteristics of the camera.


The 24th film, shot from November 1931 to the begging of April 1932. The shooting was made at intervals. In between, from December 1931 to January 1932, the film Spring Comes from Ladies (Haru wa gofunjin kara, 1932) was made. In September of 1931, the three beaux of Kamata, Suzuki Denmei, Takada Minoru, and Okada Tokihiko, withdrew from the studio, forming Fuji Eiga. Saito Tatsuo and Sakamoto Takeshi were also signed up by the seceding group, but finally remained. When the commotion subsided, Saito was back as leading actor in Ozu's crew. The first scene shows a removal somewhere in the suburbs. If we are attentive to the specific meaning of the housing in Ozu's films, the change of lodging (or better, of the lodging's form) at the begging of the film builds up anticipation that something is going to happen. This expectation is fulfilled within 12 minutes. Fresh, unknown intruders the two brothers) disturb the order of the previously established group. The method of controlling the situation and creating a new order, the friction and the changes are carefully depicted within the world of children's play. At that time, many American films with children in the main roles were imported and released, such as Tom Sawyer, Skippy, Forbidden Adventure, Huckleberry Finn and Sooky. Certainly this stimulated Shochiku Kamata to make similar films, since the studio had many child actors at its disposal. However, after the film show in the house of the managing director, the main themes switches from the children to the tension and the contrast between the suburbs and the enter of the city in Ozu's Tokyo, and the film without fail assumes the aspect of a film by Yasujiro Ozu. The scenes after the confrontation of father and sons on the evening of the film show completely differ from Fushimi's scenario, which may also be due to the long interruption of the shooting. In the scenario, the situation is resolved soon. Ryoichi follows a march of the soldiers and does not come home. His parents are relived, as the boy finally returns. This significant change indicates the differences between the two authors Fushimi and Ozu. Fushimi remains within the frame of the Kamata style with its humor and its pace. On the contrary Ozu and Fushimi, his important longtime collaborator of many silent short comedies ended here. They teamed up again only once, for What Did the Lady Forget? For Ozu, the separation from Fushimi also meant the farewell to a pastoral, bucolic youth.

Articles / Essays
I Was Born, But...
by Dave McDougall


Personal Thoughts and Comments
I Was Born, But… is often cited among Ozu's most beloved works (be it of pre or post WW2). It's a lovely film. One that begins light-hearted and subtly grows darker as it progresses. It's a witty comedy, but the film also emerges as an insightful and transcendent tragedy in its incredibly in-depth awareness of social and human behaviors. As in most of Ozu's silents, the visual style is far more expressive then that of his post-war work. I Was Born, But… perfectly defines the perspective of the characters, notably the two young boys. Ozu always got great performances from child actors and this film is essentially expressed through the two boys. In the opening scene, we see the boys watching their father as a great hero helping a car get out of a mud pit. As the film gradually moves forward their perspective changes such as when they see their father acting like a jokester in some old home movies. Here the film delves darker as the children's innocence become a overwhelming awareness of social and adult contradictions. I Was Born, But… marked one of Ozu's earliest successes as a filmmaker, both financially and critically, as the film was a box office success and also won the Kinema Jumpo poll as best Japanese film of the year. Ozu himself loosely remade ideas of this film with the more-lighthearted and inferior (though still quite good) 1959 Technicolor film Good Morning (Ohayo).

Film Images

"Pillow Shots"
A moment from I Was Born, But...
dvd (R1)