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Days of Youth

Days of Youth (Japanese: 学生ロマンス 若き日) is a 1929 silent comedy from Yasujirō Ozu. The seven or eight films he directed before this are believed to be lost, making Student Romance: Days of Youth, as it's also called, his earliest surviving picture.

This playful story is about two students (Ichirō Yūki and Tatsuo Saitō) who are attending a Tokyo university and, around winter exams, go to Akakura on a skiing trip and compete for the same girl (Junko Matsui). The film is blotchy, faded, and uneven but still exists fortunately. Countless others from the era have long since decayed beyond restoration, burned up, or were destroyed many decades ago to make space for new ones.

The snippets of 1920s Tokyo were the highlights for me, then the slapstick bits on the slopes, with some rather nasty spoilsport gags. Also it includes a number of delightful shots of smokestacks, automobiles, telephone poles, and other technologies of the time. And throughout the narrative is a subtle undercurrent of transience, as intimated by the title. That distinctive form of mono no aware for which Ozu would come to be known.


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