I Was Born, But… and Ohayo Film Reviews.

There have been many great filmmakers studied all over the world.  From Ousmane Sembene to Nicholas Roeg, many of these directors have brought a fresh, new approach to filmmaking through their outstanding uses of cinematography to their wonderfully artistic touches.  Some of these talented directors have come out of Japan, such as Kurosawa or Mitchiguchi.  However, there is one very well known director out of Japan who has been talked about in many film history books.  His name is Yasujiro Ozu and just like many of the directors above, is well noted for his films.  Ozu works more with the piecemeal approach of Japanese filmmaking, which includes subgenres such as the salaryman films (Bordwell, 24).  Throughout Ozu’s film career, he has remade a number of his first films.  Some of them include the films I Was Born, But… and its remake, Ohayo or Good Morning.  These two nansensu films have some things in common, especially when it comes to the theme of the declining strength of the father figure.  However, these films do share their differences, since they were created almost twenty or thirty years apart.

As previously mentioned, these two films have an uncanny similarity to them when it comes to the plots of both stories.  The brothers of both films have much in common.  The first thing noticeable about them is the fact that they both protest against their parents.  In I Was Born But…, the brothers protest against their father’s subordination to his boss by staging a hunger strike.  In Ohayo, the brothers stage a protest in order to get a television set by staging a silence strike.  However, there is an apparent time gap between the two films, since they were made during different time periods of Japan.  I Was Born, But… was created in 1932, making it one of Ozu’s prewar films, and Ohayo was created in 1959, making it one of Ozu’s post war films.  Due to the time gap, the lessons they convey through their protests are very different.  In I Was Born, But…, the brothers go on a hunger strike, because they are disappointed in their father’s subordinate behavior towards his boss and reflects the economic issues facing Japan at that time.  The brothers in the film have their own sense of what it means to have power, which is through their own abilities rather than through subordination like their father (Bordwell, 224).  The boys of the story are able to mock adult society through their use of a mock graveyard ceremony and as a means to show their power (Bordwell, 225).  However, in Ohayo, the brothers protest against meaningless words in order to gain a television set, which plays off of the television craze in Japan during the fifties.  They use farts and sign language to parody the notion of using language in a society.

As seen in many Ozu films, both films deal with the decline of the strength of the male figure as head of the household.  First, in the original film, I Was Born, But…, the weakness of the father figure is not revealed until the end of the film. In the beginning, the boys look up to their father and this is made apparent later on when they argue with their newly acquired gang over whose father is the strongest.  However, at the end of the film, the two brothers are invited over to a friend’s house whose father is the boss of the brothers’ father.  When everyone arrives at the boss’ house, they watch a picture movie about the boss’ vacation and some moments at his company’s office.  At this time, the brothers and everyone else present, see the father making funny faces in the film.  The brothers, who were arguing moments ago about their father being the strongest, now see him as a subordinate weakling towards his boss and are ashamed of him.  When they get home, they get into an argument with their father over his “subordination” towards his boss.  He gets angry with them, but after the brothers storm into their room, the father admits that he does think of himself as weak, but it is because it is necessary to support his family.

In Ohayo, a similar incident likes this takes place, but it does not deal with social struggle for power, but with the use of meaningless words that people use in society.  For example, if someone says “Good morning”, they probably don’t really mean it.  The two brothers, just like the ones in I Was Born, But…, get upset with their parents, because their parents won’t buy them a television set.   They go on a silence strike and stop talking to everyone they see.  This causes much confusion among the neighbors and family.  Unlike I Was Born, But…, Ohayo makes use of sound, mainly fart sounds, to convey its social theme.  However, there is the theme about the struggles of the working class from I Was Born, But… reflected in the character of Mr. Tomizawa, who helps bring about a comic twist ending to the film (Bordwell, 249).  The parents do not really buy the television just for the children, but to also help Mr. Tomizawa out with his new job (Bordwell, 350).  Just like the father in I Was Born, But…, the father in this film starts out strong, but “loses” to the children in a sense when he buys them the television set.  This also leads to another plot similarity in that both films use the problem of economic status to help families reunite (Bordwell, 225).  At the end of I Was Born, But…, the father and sons are reconciled when they both realize to stop living out social artifices (Bordwell, 225).  Similarly, in Ohayo, the family of the brothers is brought back together again through Mr. Tomizawa’s hardships.

In terms of cinematography, both films use 360 degree cuts throughout a majority of their scenes film and signifies Ozu’s unmoving camera technique.  In I Was Born, But…, Ozu uses his trademark 360 degree shooting in the scene at the boss’ house for his movie night.  In the first shot, Ozu shows Chishu Ryu threading the projector and then cuts to a 180 degree reverse shot of the boss and his wife in the center and the lamp is in its correct position (Bordwell, 227).  However, Chishu Ryu has completely vanished and could have been done to have the cuts seem smoother and almost unnoticed to the audience (Bordwell, 227).   Ozu also uses it again in Ohayo in one of the earlier scenes where the two gossiping neighbors are talking about the mother of the two boys, which show how they “chatter like women” (Bordwell, 350).  Also, the lengths of the shots in I Was Born, But… are much shorter than those of Ohayo (Bordwell, 377).  Since Ohayo concentrates more on neighborhood life, some scenes are very long with interweaving lines of action through crosscutting and overlapping character trajectories (Bordwell, 349).  According to the Appendix on page 377 of Bordwell, I Was Born, But… is composed of about 1348 shots, but Ohayo is only composed of about 819 shots (Bordwell, 377).  In I Was Born, But…, Ozu uses one shot per point shooting in some of his scenes, which mirror those of early American film comedies (Bordwell, 228).  However, in Ohayo, Ozu uses plot and cinematographic devices from his other films such as Early Summer and Early Spring (Bordwell, 348).  However, one big difference in I Was Born, But… is that Ozu does move the camera in a few scenes to thematically compare them.  This occurs in the scene where the camera pans across the office of yawning employees and then cuts to a shot of the camera panning in the opposite direction with schoolchildren diligent with their work and compares the hard working boys to the bored salarymen (Bordwell, 226).  This technique, however, is not really used in Ohayo.  Finally, Ozu uses similar gags in both films, especially the one where the younger brother walks out of the kitchen with a cleaver (Bordwell, 228 and 348).

In conclusion, I Was Born, But… and Ohayo share many similarities when it comes to their plots, especially between the main characters of both of the brothers.  However, both films do share many differences with their cinematography, especially their shot length.  Ozu may have made many remakes, but I Was Born, But… and Ohayo will always be remembered through their striking plot similarities and their different uses of cinematography.


Works Cited Page.

Bordwell, David.  Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.  1988.



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