Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? (1932)

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

The first notable difference between this film and the others in this set is that the print quality is quite stunning; it makes you lament that the surviving prints of the other films are so rough by comparison. Second difference: this time I could actually identify Chishu Ryu in it. He’s in the others but only in very small parts; here he actually had a featured character. JESUS CHRIST, I thought he was young-looking in Ornamental Hairpin nine years after this; I actually would barely have recognised him here if I couldn’t have pinned the specific character on him. I said of that film that it could be the dictionary definition of “bittersweet”, and Dreams of Youth is only even more so. That’s the third notable difference: it’s a lot darker than the other films in the set. It starts out with a similar degree of levity, the group of college chums scamming their way through school and exams and so forth; but when one, Tetsuo, gets word of his father’s illness and has to assume control of his company, things change between all of them… especially when the economic crisis bites and the other three ask Tetsuo for work. The old relationships are complicated thereby, especially once romance with the girl Tetsuo fancied back then rears its head. Although there’s still humour in the later parts of the film (the deputy director, Tetsuo’s uncle, curses him for frustrating his efforts to pair him off to another girl five times, Tetsuo tells him it’s actually been six times), the general tone is more serious, culminating in a climactic confrontation that I don’t think has any parallel in Ozu’s other work (not that I remember); Tetsuo laments the way their old friendship is no longer, and perhaps can never again be, what it used to be, and it’s a kind of violent lament. Definite and clear resonances of the later Ozu in this one; powerful, emotive stuff.

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