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Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners

Posted March 01, 2012 to photo album "Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners"

Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.

Being Flynn
Beginners (2011)
The Kid (1921)
The Champ (1931)
I Was Born But... (1932)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Rebel without a Cause (1955)
Bigger Than Life (1956)
The Godfather (1972)
The Great Santini (1979)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
At Close Range (1986)
A Bronx Tale (1993)
In the Name of the Father (1994)
The Sum of Us (1994)
Billy Elliot (2000)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Finding Nemo (2003)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
I Was Born But... (1932)

I Was Born But... (1932)

Long before the director Yasujirō Ozu was considered one of Japan’s most lyrical directors, with poetic domestic dramas like Tokyo Story and Late Autumn, he was making comedies. Ozu  started making films in the 1920s, churning out formulaic college larks like I Graduated, but… and I Flunked, but… Even though the title of his 1932 I Was Born But … alludes to his earlier works, this emotionally powerful story of a father and his sons took Ozu's comedy to a new level. In the film, Yoshi (Tatsuo Saito), a young executive, moves his family out to the Tokyo suburbs for his new job. His two boys, Keiji (Tomio Aoki) and Ryoichi (Hideo Sugawara), are young imps, who, by tricks and twists, rise to the top of the juvenile pecking order in their new neighborhood. Their father, on the other hand, is made to conform to the corporate hierarchy imposed upon him by his new boss. To their horror, the boys, who want their father to be proud of their leadership skills, discover that he must kowtow to the man whose son they have made their subordinate. This kids comedy turns sadly serious when the boys turn on their father: “You tell us to become somebody, but you're nobody.” It is also here, when the boys must put away childish things and face the reality of the adult world, that we truly see Ozu’s skill as a filmmaker. “I started to make a film about children and ended up with a film about grown-ups,” Ozu acknowledges. And while the opening credits called the film a "picture book for grown-ups," the distribution company delayed the film’s release by two months, unsure what to do with its “unexpectedly dark subject.” But the critics applauded the film’s tone, awarding it first place at the Kinema Junpo Awards that year. In 1959, Ozu created a loose remake of I Was Born But… with Good Morning