EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|MOST BEAUTIFUL, THE (ICHIBAN UTSUKUSHIKU) (director/writer: Akira Kurosawa; cinematographer: Joji Ohara; music: Seiichi Suzuki; cast: Takashi Shimura (Factory production head), Ichiro Sugai (Assistant), Yôko Yaguchi (Tsuru Watanabe), Takako Irie (Dorm mother), Sachiko Ozaki (Sachiko Yamazaki), Shizuko Nishigaki (Fusae Nishioka), Asako Suzuki (Asako Suzumura), Shizuko Yamada (Hisae Yamaguchi); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Motohiko Ito; The Criterion Collection; 1944-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)|
you ever wanted to miss a Kurosawa film, this minor film is the one."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A World War II propaganda film that's aimed
at inspiring patriotism during the height of the war. The film was promoted by Japan’s Office of Public
Information for the war effort.
released in America until 1988. The locale is a military lens factory in the
Hiratsuka, where a division of young gung-ho women strive to increase
factory production quotas. This
is noted Japanese filmmaker Akira
Dog"/"Yojimbo") second film
after Sanshiro Sugata (1943). If you ever wanted to miss a Kurosawa
film, this minor film is the one. It's no better or worse than the
usual propaganda film, as it's at least not hysterical and, considering
the hardships at the time, the b/w film, shot as a semi-documentary,
has good production values.
The film's star is Yôko Yaguchi, who later married Kurosawa.
The factory's kindly
paternalistic production head (Takashi
Shimura) tells the lady workers they must increase production to 50 per
cent of the men. The worker leader is Tsuru
Watanabe (Yôko Yaguchi), who gets the boss to agree that the
ladies will do two-thirds of what the men do. The idealized ladies work hard under trying conditions
and encounter numerous problems from fatigue, tuberculosis, illness, a breaking of a leg, and in one case, the death of
a family member. Watanabe becomes obsessed with meeting the goal, which
endangers her well-being as she faces many challenges that include what
to do about her mother dying at home with no one to take care of her.
The film lucidly shows that
team work is needed to win the war, as it points out throughout the
beauty of the Japanese spirit and the value of self-sacrifice. Kurosawa
used professional actors only
in the major roles, in the minor roles he got realism from the
It should be only of interest to Kurosawa completists and critics.
REVIEWED ON 8/1/2010 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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