The Most Beautiful (1944)

AKIRA KUROSAWA

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Ichiban Utsukushiku

Japan, 1944.  Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .

Akira Kurosawa was enlisted to make a film to help the war effort, at that point a situation that was starting to look hopeless for Japan.  The result is this touching, poignant film about young women who contribute their efforts to working in an optics factory, kicking it into high gear when they are informed that they must increase production if they are going to be any use to the men fighting the Allies. The girls work extremely hard, many of them sacrificing their own well-being for their country, but Kurosawa never allows any of them to veer into symbolic heroine territory for even an instant. The pain and suffering that the girls endure, and the delights they take in each other’s company, is brought to vivid life through detailed characterization. It is an interesting paradox to have Kurosawa make this film in the first place: the man who believed so strongly against conformity putting his spin on a story about sacrificing individuality makes for a curious mix of themes. The result is not muddled, however, but rich with complexity, and the conclusion is a gorgeous heartbreaker.

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