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Ichiban utsukushiku (1944)
Worth watching closely
If you study this film then you can learn much about Japan, World War Two, and Akira Kurosawa. This is the only film he made that was meant to be propaganda, but his earlier film Sanshiro Sugata actually played to themes more useful to a nation at war. If you make a film that matches the zeitgeist of your country, that's great. But be forewarned that your country's government may then ask you to inspire the people to fight on, and you would then make a propaganda film, which is what may have happened to Kurosawa. This fact shouldn't make you reject The Most Beautiful because cinema in all countries in WW2 was used in the war effort. Japan was no exception.
Kurosawa in interviews after the war revealed his dislike of the government censors. Toward the end of the war, Japanese were preparing for the possibility of the entire nation receiving an order from the Emporer to commit suicide, called "the Honorable Death of the 100 Million." Kurosawa didn't dispute that he would have followed the Emporer's directive, but did say that he and his colleagues jokingly agreed they would first go and kill all the censors.
The plot and action of the film is described elsewhere. There are things to watch for carefully as you view the film.
If you're in a university setting then there is one absolute advantage that you have -- access to a professor of management and organizational behavior. Why? Well, The Most Beautiful is practically a docu-drama on management science. The scientific methods of production and organizational management are more clearly documented in this film than in any other I can recall, anywhere. It also compares things like Stakhanovism to Hawthorne experiment studies and displays the early beginnings of total quality management and quality assurance methods later developed by Deming. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, then you need a professor of management science to watch the film and help you see what Kurosawa was putting in. Then consider that the film was released to the Japanese public, which assured that it would be viewed by American military intelligence organizations and the OSS.
Some specifics to look for in no particular order: the background music includes a sampling from Semper Fi, the USMC theme song; there's little talk of enemies but when they're mentioned, the British are named ahead of Americans; the factory managers back a young woman's rejection of her father's instruction to come home and take the place of his deceased wife, which is a break with tradition (almost the equivalent of bra-burning in wartime Japan); and, backgrounds are set in wartime Japan and reveal details of the industrial infrastructure.
There are many films by Kurosawa that feature sickness and health care in their plots. This one, Drunken Angel, Ikuru, The Quiet Duel, and Red Beard come to mind. Dodes' ka-den and Ran might also qualify as their main characters suffer from afflictions of the mind. Kurosawa's biggest films are Rashomon and The Seven Samurai, but his films with health and medicine in the plot are more prevalent in his career.
One caveat to The Most Beautiful is that it is long and does reflect the tastes of Japanese audiences who like their drama very obvious. Forgive yourself if you find Japanese drama becomes too boring in some places. The films can be very enjoyable and interesting, provided you approach them with the understanding that they are far different from what we experience as entertainment today.