I Flunked, But… (1930)

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

This DVD edition of Ozu’s early student films also includes the surviving fragments of I Graduated, But… which he made the previous year, to which this served as something of a reverse companion piece. The earlier film is about a student graduating and then finding the job-hunting life to be kind of hell (this being just before the Wall St crash, too); this one is about a student failing but ultimately being better off than his chums who got their degrees but can’t get jobs with them (and we’re well into the Depression by this point). Ozu himself famously never even passed the university entrance exams, and the DVD booklet characterises him as the 1920s Japanese equivalent of the “slacker” in some respects, which probably explains the sympathy he has for his “hero”, Takahashi (Tatsuo Saito, who was Yamamoto in Days of Youth; minus the Harold Lloyd glasses in this film, it really is quite a different performance). He and a gang of his fellow students are rooming at his aunt’s, but when exam time comes he’s the only one who doesn’t score his degree. But, like I said, once he gets past the initial disappointment, Ozu presents this as really not being the end of the world (which was probably a kind of radical if not subversive notion in Japanese culture at the time); when the next term starts, Takahashi’s got his classes to go back to while his roommates just have rejection letters and envy for him. It’s not exactly the mono no aware thing that gets mentioned in reference to Ozu all the time, maybe more just a feeling of “eh, shit happens, let’s enjoy things while we can anyway”, but there’s still that element of poignancy to it in any case; it felt more like an “Ozu” film than Days of Youth did for me. Good, though again the story material might be a bit thin, but the film only runs just over an hour so it’s not as problematic as the earlier film. Again, Ed Hughes’ score on the DVD—or what I listened to of it—managed to miss the film’s comedic nature and I think I might just leave the sound off for the next two films in this set.

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