|The Most Beautiful|
|Directed by||Akira Kurosawa|
|Screenplay by||Akira Kurosawa|
|Produced by||Motohiko Ito|
|Starring|| Takashi Shimura |
|Music by||Sei'ichi Suzuki|
|Distributed by||Toho Company|
The Most Beautiful (Japanese: 一番美しく, Hepburn: Ichiban Utsukushiku) is a 1944 Japanese drama and propaganda film written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The semidocumentary film follows a group of female volunteer workers at an optics factory during the Second World War, during which the film was produced.
Set during World War II, the film depicts the struggle of female volunteer workers to meet production targets at a precision optics factory in Hiratsuka. They drive themselves, individually and collectively, to exceed the targets set for them by the factory directors. The factory directors push the girls to be their best for their country. The girls live in a dormitory, and every day they march and sing songs about Japan's greatness while on the way to work. They live away from their parents but are happy to do so to serve their country. Every morning before work, they pledge that they will be loyal to Japan and will work to destroy the U.S. and Britain. There are encouraging signs posted everywhere about working hard for one's country in the factory. One of the girls gets sick and has to stay home, making her incredibly upset about missing work and cries because of the tremendous guilt she feels. She begs not to be sent home because she wants to keep working. Later on, a girl falls off the roof and gets badly injured. Yet she says she is delighted that she did not harm her hands and will come to work on crutches. Their productivity decreases, the girls know their reputation is at stake, and they must work harder. One of the girls says that "one can't improve productivity without improving one's character." Watanabe's mother gets sick, her dad writes that under no circumstance should she come home, and her mother wants her to keep working, saying that her job is too important to leave. Near the end of the film, one of the girls gets a high temperature and tries to ignore it because she does not want to get sent home or stop working. Later on, Watanabe accidentally misplaces a lens and spends the entire night looking for it, she is worried her mistake will cost a soldier their life. The film ends with Watanabe's mom dying and her father telling her to stay at work. The factory directors ask her to go home. She refuses to go and cries while continuing her work.
According to Stephen Prince, Akira Kurosawa had been chosen by the navy to direct an action film about Zero fighter planes. But by 1943, he thought it unlikely that the navy would spare planes for a film as it was becoming clear that Japan would lose the war. So Kurosawa made this "patriotic morale booster" instead.The director shot The Most Beautiful with a "semidocumentary approach." It was filmed on-location at the Nippon Kogaku factory in Hiratsuka, where he had the actresses live, work, and form a fife and drum corps.
Actress Yoko Yaguchi clashed over the alleged ways Kurosawa treated the actors. However, the pair found a connection, despite these clashes, and married in 1945.Although Prince writes that Kurosawa later chastised himself for doing so little to resist Japan's descent into militarism, the director also remarked that, of all his films, The Most Beautiful was dearest to him.
The Criterion Collection has released The Most Beautiful on DVD in North America as part of two 2009 Kurosawa-centered box sets; The First Films of Akira Kurosawa, the 23rd entry in their Eclipse series, and AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa.
Paul Anderer of Columbia University has commented on the subtext of the film having been released during the war years for Japan. Anderer said, "It is as if Kurosawa himself were in this lineup (of directors under state scrutiny), frozen inside wartime, when any significant movement or resistance to the authority would be stillborn. Surrounded by a censorship apparatus far more resourceful and intimidating, he would later claim, than anything the American Occupation threw his way, he had few thematic or tonal options: historical tributes to Japanese spiritual and martial values (like Sanshiro Sugata and its weaker sequel), or patriotic odes to factory production and sacrificial domesticity (e.g., The Most Beautiful, 1944)".
Critics like Stephen Prince, Kurosawa translator Audie Bock, and historian David Conrad have argued that what is most striking about The Most Beautiful and Kurosawa's other wartime productions is the extent to which they complicate and even undercut the government's desired message. The Most Beautiful "dutifully praises sacrifice but shrouds it in an air of futility" by focusing on "the individual emotional costs of war."
Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker and painter who directed thirty films in a career spanning over five decades. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in film history.
Ran is a 1985 epic historical drama film directed, edited and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. The plot derives from William Shakespeare's King Lear and includes segments based on legends of the daimyō Mōri Motonari. The film stars Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora Ichimonji, an aging Sengoku-period warlord who decides to abdicate as ruler in favor of his three sons.
Toshiro Mifune was a Japanese actor who appeared in over 150 feature films. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration (1948–1965) with Akira Kurosawa in such works as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo. He also portrayed Miyamoto Musashi in Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy and one earlier Inagaki film, Lord Toranaga in the NBC television miniseries Shōgun, and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in three different films.
Rashomon is a 1950 Jidaigeki psychological thriller/crime film directed and written by Akira Kurosawa, working in close collaboration with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa. Starring Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori, and Takashi Shimura as various people who describe how a samurai was murdered in a forest, the plot and characters are based upon Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short story "In a Grove", with the title and framing story being based on "Rashōmon", another short story by Akutagawa. Every element is largely identical, from the murdered samurai speaking through a Shinto psychic to the bandit in the forest, the monk, the assault of the wife and the dishonest retelling of the events in which everyone shows his or her ideal self by lying.
Red Beard is a 1965 Japanese jidaigeki film co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa, in his last collaboration with actor Toshiro Mifune. Based on Shūgorō Yamamoto's 1959 short story collection, Akahige Shinryōtan, the film takes place in Koishikawa, a district of Edo, towards the end of the Tokugawa period, and is about the relationship between a town doctor and his new trainee. Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Humiliated and Insulted provided the source for a subplot about a young girl, Otoyo, who is rescued from a brothel.
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Sanshiro Sugata is a 1943 Japanese martial arts drama film and the directorial debut of the Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa. First released in Japan on 25 March 1943 by Toho film studios, the film was eventually released in the United States on 28 April 1974. The film is based on the novel of the same name written by Tsuneo Tomita, the son of prominent judoka Tsunejirō Tomita. It follows the story of Sanshiro, a talented though willful youth, who travels to the city in order to learn Jujutsu. However, upon his arrival he discovers a new form of self-defence: Judo. The main character is based on Saigō Shirō.
Ikiru is a 1952 Japanese drama film directed and co-written by Akira Kurosawa. The film examines the struggles of a terminally ill Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. The screenplay was partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy's 1886 novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich.
Stray Dog is a 1949 Japanese film noir crime drama directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. It was Kurosawa's second film of 1949 produced by the Film Art Association and released by Shintoho. It is also considered a detective movie that explores the mood of Japan during its painful postwar recovery. The film is also considered a precursor to the contemporary police procedural and buddy cop film genres, based on its premise of pairing two cops with different personalities and motivations together on a difficult case.
Drunken Angel is a 1948 Japanese yakuza film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is notable for being the first of sixteen film collaborations between director Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune.
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Setsuko Hara was a Japanese actress. Though best known for her performances in Yasujirō Ozu's films Late Spring (1949) and Tokyo Story (1953), she had already appeared in 67 films before working with Ozu.
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Rhapsody in August is a 1991 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa based on the novel Nabe no naka by Kiyoko Murata. The story centers on an elderly hibakusha, who lost her husband in the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, caring for her four grandchildren over the summer. She learns of a long-lost brother, Suzujiro, living in Hawaii who wants her to visit him before he dies. American film star Richard Gere appears as Suzujiro's son Clark. The film was selected as the Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 64th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
Yōko Yaguchi was a Japanese actress, and the wife of Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa for 39 years. She had two children with Kurosawa: a son named Hisao and a daughter named Kazuko.
Kazuko Kurosawa is a Japanese costume designer. She won the 2008 Genie Award for Best Achievement in Costume Design. She is the daughter of famous filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and actress Yōko Yaguchi, her son is actor Takayuki Kato. She is married to the son of actor Daisuke Katō. She provided the costumes for Zatōichi.
Yaguchi is a Japanese surname. Notable people with the surname include:
The films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa have had a far-reaching impact on cinema and how it is produced, both within Japan and internationally. As a result of his influence, Kurosawa's work, as well as his personal character, have been subject to a number of negative criticisms. These criticisms are points of heated debate among those who study Kurosawa's work, and scores of pieces have been written both advocating for these criticisms and defending against them.
Penance, known in Japanese as Shokuzai (贖罪), is a Japanese television drama miniseries that started airing on WOWOW in January 2012. It is based on a novel of the same name by Kanae Minato and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
The legacy of filmmaking technique left by Akira Kurosawa (1910–1998) for subsequent generations of filmmakers has been diverse and of international influence beyond his native Japan. The legacy of influence has ranged from working methods, influence on style, and selection and adaptation of themes in cinema. Kurosawa's working method was oriented toward extensive involvement with numerous aspects of film production. He was also an effective screenwriter who would work in close contact with his writers very early in the production cycle to ensure high quality in the scripts which would be used for his films.