I Flunked, But...

I Flunked, But... ★★★

Like most of Ozu's pre-1937 work, I FLUNKED, BUT is another nansensu ("nonsense") comedy about the fear of unemployment, which would have strongly resonated with contemporary audiences of the 1930s given the economic Depression of the times. Here the plot centers around several students facing "exam hell," who try to cheat their way through college finals but still end up jobless like those who graduated. 

It's a much more playful spin on I GRADUATED, BUT (1929), only here Ozu doubles down and claims it doesn't matter if you've graduated or flunked out of college, you're still gonna be unemployed in this depression-hit economy. All notions of education, working hard and "getting ahead" in order to secure material success are just empty reminders of the failures of Meiji promises.

Conceptually this is pretty gloomy stuff, but the execution is very amusing. One review I read calls it "a pre-Animal House romp" which is actually not inaccurate, as the overall tone veers into slapstick routine and centers on a group of male friends goofing off and saying to hell with maturity. It's also got Ozu's signature sadness behind all the comedy, as this same group of friends are seen lamenting over their entry into adulthood, and who spend their time wishing for their carefree college days. It's fun at the same time reflecting a societal melancholy. Think DAYS OF YOUTH (1929) in terms of its comedic tone, I GRADUATED, BUT (1929) in terms of its moody concept.

A nascent work that shows Ozu honing his craft and preparing for things to come.

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