Ozu was particularly fond of this college comedy because it was the first of his films to give Chishu Ryu, his favorite actor, a major role. (The great actress Kinuyo Tanaka, largely known for her roles in Mizoguchi’s films, also appears.) A student facing “exam hell” decides to cheat by writing crib notes on his shirt. The plan goes awry when an overly solicitous landlady sends the shirt to the laundry, thereby guaranteeing that the miscreant will fail. Ozu’s delectable irony lies in the “but ...” after flunking—the student’s failure turns out far sweeter than the success of his companions.
In this short reconstruction of an otherwise lost film, Ozu focuses on the unemployment that was rampant among college graduates in late-1920s Japan. The film’s protagonist, a recent graduate, turns down a position as a receptionist because it is beneath him. He returns home to discover that his mother and his fiancée have arrived from the country. Lying about his situation, the unemployed young man gets married, and his new wife is forced to work in a bar to make ends meet. Filled with references to American comedies (including a poster of Harold Lloyd’s Speedy), the rare I Graduated But … deftly combines social criticism and light-hearted humor.