Tatsuo Saitô and Kinuyo Tanaka in Rakudai wa shitakeredo (1930)


(director/writer: Yasujiro Ozu; screenwriters: based on an idea by Yasujiro Ozu/Akira Fushimi; cinematographer: Hideo Mohara; editor: Hideo Shigehara; cast: Tatsuo Saito (Takahashi), Kinuyo Tanaka (Waitress), Tomio Aoki (Landlady’s Son), Kaoru Futaba (Landlady), Hiroo Wakabayashi (Professor), Ichirô Okuni (Professor), Chishû Ryû (Passing Student), Ichirô Tsukida (Passing Student), Fusao Yamada (Passing Student), Kenji Satome (Passing Student), Debuo Yôko (Flunking Student), Tokio Seki (Flunking Student), Hiroshi Mikura (Flunking Student), Goro Yokoyama (Flunking Student); Runtime: 64; MPAA Rating: NR; BFI in PAL DVD; 1930-silent-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)


“Slight comedy with no discernible edge but whose funny gags are based on farce.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Yasujiro Ozu (“Good Morning”/”Floating Weeds”/”Early Summer”)was 26 at the time he directed the third of his five student comedies, this silent slight comedy with no discernible edge but whose funny gags are based on farce and are immersed in the sad facts of life that graduating college offers no guarantee of getting a decent job during the Depression in Japan.Though Ozu did not attend college, he directs using student slacker Tatsuo Saito as his alter ego. For both, college was all about making lifetime friends and horsing around with your comrades and enjoying to the max one’s salad days. Student life was not about learning or using it for a political agenda to advance one’s careers. Ozu seemingly admired American colleges and films, and places banners from Ohio State in the dorm rooms as well as a poster from the American 1929 marital drama Charming Sinners.

Takahashi (Tatsuo Saito)has four college roommates. But with four different students he pals around with, he schemes to cheat on the final exams but is foiled when the dorm landlady sends his shirt with notes written on the back to the dry cleaners. The four roommates who study hard barely pass, but Takahashi and his four cheating friends fail. The dejected student has to return to college for another year, or drop-out. The cute waitress (Kinuyo Tanaka) in the student cafe has a crush on Takahashi and knits a tie for him and encourages him to wear a suit and return to college. Eventually Takahashi is cheered up by her support and knowing that his graduate former roommates can’t get jobs in the Depression and say they wish they were back in college, while he can still find comfort in being carefree as a student.