This portrait of female volunteer workers at an optics plant during World War II, shot on location at the Nippon Kogaku factory, was created with a patriotic agenda. Yet thanks to Akira Kurosawa’s groundbreaking semidocumentary approach, The Most Beautiful is a revealing look at Japanese women of the era and anticipates the aesthetics of Japanese cinema’s postwar social realism. —The Criterion Collection
The son of an army officer, Kurosawa studied art before gravitating to film as a means of supporting himself. He served seven years as an assistant to director Kajiro Yamamoto before he began his own directorial career with Sanshiro Sugata (1943), a film about the 19th century struggle for supremacy between adherents of judo and jujitsu that so impressed the military government, he was prevailed upon to make a sequel (Sanshiro Sugata Part Two). Following the end of World War II, Kurosawa’s career gathered speed with a series of films that cut across all genres, from crime thrillers to period dramas. Among the latter, his Rashomon (1951) became the first postwar Japanese film to find wide favor with Western audiences. It was Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954), however, that made the largest impact of any of his movies outside of Japan. Although heavily cut for its original release, this three-hour-plus medieval action drama, shot with painstaking… read more
The propaganda elements make this semi-documentary very dated but little elements of Kurosawa shine through. From the editing & the effect of the individual vs. society and its consequences this is a solid film to the very last scene of Watanabe's tearful persistence that's eerily similar to Japan's losing fight in WWII.
"I'll say it again: one can't improve productivity without improving ones character." Call it a sophomore slump, growing pains, or a blatant spit in the face of propaganda, but this jumpy, cut-up and downright mechanical film is the furthest from what became Kurosawa's style. A lot of experiments -some are successful. There are building blocks & themes he uses later but this film is an exercise in self discovery.
The concept behind the box is simplicity itself, exemplified by its title: "25 Films By Akira Kurosawa." This is released in commemoration