Ozu’s earliest extant film reveals the director as a master of Hollywood-style filmmaking. (Donald Richie and David Bordwell have both pointed out that Days of Youth is indebted to the films of Harold Lloyd and Ernst Lubitsch.) Two friends at Waseda University, one a smart guy, the other a bumbler, fall in love with the same girl but postpone courting her until they are through “exam hell.” They later go on a ski holiday in Akakura and discover that she is about to enter into an arranged marriage with the leader of their ski club. Punctuated by great gags involving runaway skis, wet paint, hot chocolate, gloves, socks, and a handful of persimmons, Days of Youth offers our first glimpse of Ozu regular Chishu Ryu, who appeared in more than a dozen of Ozu’s finest films.
Long thought lost, this delightful little film was written quickly over beers in a Ginza bar and shot in three days, which may account for its freewheeling nature. A hapless crook kidnaps a bespectacled tyke whose name, Tokkan Kozo, means “a boy who charges into you.” The brat turns out to have an insatiable appetite for candy and is more trouble than he is worth. The child star Tomio Aoki became so popular that he changed his name to Tokkan Kozo and appeared in several other Ozu films.