I Graduated, But…

Early family drama from Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu sees future themes already being, as the song goes, handled with care. Filmed in 1929, I Graduated, But… is the work of a young Yasujiro Ozu already well in his element: exploring the bittersweetness of ordinary life through the genre of family melodrama. In his later, more mature years Ozu would work and rework this same formula, the same conventions, and even the same title structure, to greater and greater effect and with a more developed personal style. However, I Graduated, But… is a satisfying film in its own right, in addition to being a fascinating glimpse at a career-in-progress. It’s by no means a mere film-historical relic.

The story of I Graduated, But… centers on a young graduate, who, as the film opens, is offered and rejects a low-level job at a Tokyo office because he believes it is below his diploma-elevated standards. Upon returning home, however, he deceives his family, claiming to have been employed. After a few days of pretending to go to work in the morning, he confesses the truth to his wife, who decides to seek work on her own. With the couple’s money running out, she finds and takes a job as a waitress in a seedy bar. Like the graduate, she, too, keeps this a secret. Eventually, by sheer coincidence (or perhaps cinematic fate, the guiding hand of the always humane Ozu), the graduate goes to the same bar and sees his wife at work. This jolts his senses, lowers his pride; and, sometime in the next few days, he returns to the office, and accepts the job he previously turned down. The film ends with a shot of the wife, now no longer employed at the bar, waving goodbye to her husband as his train cuts below a bridge and heads toward the horizon, draped in modernity. As typical for Ozu, though the ending is a happy one, the happiness is footnoted, perhaps cursed, with a sense of uncertainty: happiness, but for how longr Much like in the film’s title, there is always that infernal, dangerous But…

It’s interesting to note that what remains of I Graduated, But… is only a portion of what Ozu created. Thus, the film, though it makes narrative sense when linked by its intertitles, contains many gaps in its story. As his style matured, Ozu would often use this type of gap, the cinematic ellipsis, on purpose, leaving seemingly key or important events off-screen and between shots. In Ozu, a cut is not always a cut is not always a cut.

I Graduated, But… comes highly recommended.

Rating: B-