1. The moving truck en route to the family's new home gets stuck in the mud, tire futilely spinning. In Japan, not the wheel of Fortune: in Ozu, no arrival —
rather, the rearrival of all things.
A circle: a smile attached to a frown.
2. Thus the Pair, the Reflection, in A Picture-Book for Grown-Ups: I Was Born, But... [Ootona no miru e-hon: Umarete wa mita keredo, 1932], with its ambivalent, ambiguous title. The Child and Adult united: I was born, but... — but what? If being born must be qualified, the conclusion must read that I am not exactly alive... not exactly a 'me'... the implicit, invisible "I-myself" in "umarete"... I was born, but I'm not exactly an I, a me...
What, then? — A nothing, and an all-things, at once.
Or — I was born, but not like you were — I'm an alien, I'm an Other, I'm Momotarô.
-The boss's son who joins in on picking on the sons of the employee Yoshii (played by the silent stork, Tatsuo Saitô) who has just moved his family, in a looks-pathetic display of loyalty, to be closer to his boss.
-The identically-outfitted brothers: Ryôichi (played by Hideo Sugawara of Ozu's Tokyo Chorus from the previous year) and Keiji (played by the "tokkan kozô / straightforward brat" Tomio Aoki of Ozu's film of the same name from three years earlier).
-Strata of power among youth and employer/employee alike.
3. The seldom remarked-upon recurrence of the 'uncanny' in Ozu makes its present felt with full force in I Was Born, But....
-The brothers' "miraculous" waza which, performed at will, paralyzes the bully who drops prone to the earth. The waza ends in Christian crossing. Third gesture resurrects the victim. Changes back and forth again inside the youngsters' clique throughout the film: from bully to bewitched, from bullied to sorcerer.
-If you eat sparrow eggs you'll gain in vigor.
-Struck poses / aura-shock.
4. The greatest scene: the home movies played back at the home of the boss (played by Ozu regular Takeshi Sakamoto; projectionist: Ozu's favorite lead, Chishû Ryû, in an early appearance). The cuts from the father's silly antics revealed in the footage to the reverse-shots of the shock of the sons encountering this playful, youthful side of their father for the first time — they're thrown into confusion — and they don't know whether their father's colleagues are laughing with him or at him. The editing across this scene is an example par excellence of the shot-reverse-shot technique which as a core cinematographic axiom has been effectively abandoned by contemporary filmmakers. One moment in particular astounds: (A) Shot of the footage projected onto the living room screen, a close-up of the father pulling a face. (B) Yoshii's/Saitô's eyes roll up, and look directly into the camera. (C) Cut to "reverse-angle" of the two boys, all astonished expressions at what they're seeing. Yoshii's/Saitô's at-camera gaze transforms this two-shot succession from a simple angle/angle communiqué into an eyeline match, the looker and the looked-upon: as such, a message from the father to the sons, telling them something he perhaps never could in physical life. (D) The boys' gazes shift toward the area in the living room where their father is sitting: the 'truth' of the accepted him in physical reality. (E) Cut to an angle/boys'-POV of the father, jovial, laughing: a real-world manifestation of this persona only first glimpsed by the boys moments before on the screen — at the same time, a man, a father, who might be doffing too low the proverbial cap...
He was born, but that was so far back...
5. Speaking of cuts-on-look: the physical, bodily component (a turn, a thrust of the torso, sometimes repeated in metronomic succession, robo-servo-synchronized) that always induces the cut to the reverse-shot in Ozu.
In Ozu, in other words, the cut-on-look is a cut-on-action.