4 December 2003 | thsieh_83
One of Ozu's Finest; An Excellent Satire and Great Film.
"I Flunked, But..." (Rakudai wa shita keredo) is an Ozu piece made in the 1930's, and a great example of what a Silent Film can do. A college satire set in Depression-era Japan, "I Flunked But.." is an excellent movie, a comic masterpiece, and perhaps one of the stronger examples of Ozu's silent film ouevre.
It concerns the humorous attempts made by Takahashi and his gang in trying to pass the rigourous "Exam Hell" mandated by the College of Economics they attend. We are introduced to a variety of very funny cheating techniques and the gang's dedication to perfecting odd gaits and struts. Takahasi and his cohorts fail the one important exam that enables them to graduate, when one of their valuable cheating tricks (a shirt cribbed with diagrams and notes) is taken out by the laundryman. This movie is filled with a bunch of comic miniutae as well, from Ozu's play with shadows (a noose shows up as a lamp's string after Takahasi fails the exam), superb dialogue (even though its a silent film - many lines are very good), some fairly memorable characters (one of Takahasi's dorm-mates, a bespectacled klutz, constantly thinks it absurd that he was able to graduate while Takahasi, his smart "teacher", fails), and some nice indoor cinematography in Ozu's classic style.
The film's ironic punchline comes in the harsh truth that during tough times, there are rarely any jobs, so the student who flunks is actually better off than the student who graduates. All of Takahashi's dorm-mates get rejected one job after the other and reminisce of the "good college days" - one of the most memorable lines is when one of the characters say: "I want to go back to college - we graduated too hastily". The film may be a hard find, being that its silent and B&W, (and it was made in 1930!) but if you can catch it, it's definitely worth it. I was able to watch it at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive - while a musician, Joel Adlen, played the score in the background on piano. Definitely a small fraction of the overall aesthetic greatness of Ozu as a director and an artist.