5.8/10
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Ichiban utsukushiku (1944)

| Drama | June 1987 (USA)
During World War II, the management of a war industry of optical instruments for weapons requests an effort from the workers to increase the productivity during four months. The target for ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Sôji Kiyokawa ...
Soichi Yoshikawa, Chief of General Affairs Section
Ichirô Sugai ...
Ken Shinda, Chief of Labor Section
Takako Irie ...
Noriko Mizushima, dorm mother
Yôko Yaguchi ...
Tsuru Watanabe, president of women workers
Sayuri Tanima ...
Yuriko Tanimura, vice president of the women workers
Sachiko Ozaki ...
Sachiko Yamazaki
Shizuko Nishigaki ...
Fusae Nishioka
Asako Suzuki ...
Asako Suzumura
Haruko Toyama ...
Masako Koyama
Aiko Masu ...
Tokiko Hiroda
Kazuko Hitomi ...
Kazuko Futomi
Shizuko Yamada ...
Hisae Yamaguchi
Itoko Kôno ...
Sue Okabe
Toshiko Hattori ...
Toshiko Hattori
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Storyline

During World War II, the management of a war industry of optical instruments for weapons requests an effort from the workers to increase the productivity during four months. The target for male workers is an increase of 100% of the production, but the female workers, led by the dedicated Tsuru Watanabe, ask the direction to surpass their goal from 50% to 70%. During the period, the women have to overcome illness and their personal problems to complete their quota. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Drama

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June 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Most Beautifully  »

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1.37 : 1
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Trivia

In order to save film during wartime, the Japanese government ordered films to be released to have no opening titles and thus giving no credit to most of the actors or workers on each film. This included "The Most Beautiful" (1944). See more »

Connections

Referenced in Kurosawa: The Last Emperor (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"The Most Beautiful is not a major picture, but it is the one dearest to me." - Akira Kurosawa
10 November 2010 | by (Modesto, California) – See all my reviews

Propaganda films are usually of interest to me because of the situation and time period they were made in and their point of view not because of plot or sublime character development. Rarely do the characterizations, I currently cannot think of one, go beyond one or two dimensions. This is because the point of the propaganda film regardless of origin is to rally the troops and align their sense of duty. This movie is no different in that regard. But there are several key differences from the typical propaganda film that makes this film more interesting. The most interesting approach was the documentary approach Kurosawa took. Though he used actresses he did all he could to remove the artificiality of their craft to create a realistic portrait of the young girls at that time who were working in military construction. I felt this movie was effective in that regard. The tempered acting to those that are used to the Noh influenced acting of his later films. Another surprise is that this is one of two films of Kurosawa where the protagonist is a woman. The other one is No Regrets For Our Youth (1946) with Setsuko Hara.

The least interesting aspect of the film is the story. It is about a group of young women in an optical instrument factory that have to push up production to fill the need for the optical lens. While the men were asked to increase their production a hundred percent, the women were asked to do 50 percent. This insulted the women and they asked that they do a more respectable number like 66 percent (would a higher number have been insulting to the men?). The hardships created by this are numerable as the women face sickness, injury, mental breakdown and general crabbiness.

The movie is too episodic and heavy on the "team spirit" motif (not that Kurosawa had much of a choice), but it eventually settles on the titular protagonist in Tsuru Watanabe (Yoko Yaguchi) who embodies the spirit (kokoro) of an ideal worker. Her mother is dying, but her father and her mother want her to stay in the factory working so that Japan will not lose face. What is subversive is that she is a stubborn individualist. When she loses track of lens that she did not finish correcting, she goes through the monument task of finding it, and regardless of the pain it causes her, the lack of sleep and her supervisors telling her she does not need to do it – she does it anyways.

I do not agree with Donald Richie in his The Films of Akira Kurosawa when he states "Twenty years later it is almost impossible for us to think a lost lens this important." She states that she worries that lost lens might result in the death of Japanese soldiers (and possibly in her mind a battle and ultimately the war). It does not matter if she is correct in this thinking, it only matters that she feels that way. Anyone who has any degree of OCD can relate to this. Once the mind gets fixed with an idea that may haunt them it is easy to understand the monomania which consumes her until she finds her mistake.

One thing that surprised me when hearing it in the film, and the fact that Kurosawa got away with putting into the score (he mentions this in his autobiography), is the insertion of "Semper Fidelis" by John Philip Sousa.

Has anyone seen any other Kurosawa film where he uses as many horizontal wipes? After the picture he married the main actress Yoko Yaguchi. It was love at first sight. Kurosawa stated "She was a terribly stubborn and uncompromising person, and since I am very much the same, we often clashed head on." I do wonder how well they got along over the years though.

I think this film can satisfy not only Akira Kurosawa fans but fans of social realist cinema and of course those looking for propaganda films of WWII. If someone is just getting into Japanese cinema this probably could be passed on for quite a long awhile. But for completists (those reading this) they will want to see this. But then again completists want to see everything.


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