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The Most Beautiful (1944)

Ichiban utsukushiku (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | June 1987 (USA)
World War II propaganda film about female volunteer workers at an optics plant who do their best to meet production targets.

Director:

Akira Kurosawa

Writer:

Akira Kurosawa
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Cast

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

June 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Most Beautiful See more »

Filming Locations:

Toho Studios, Tokyo, Japan

Company Credits

Production Co:

Toho Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Akira Kurowsawa's lowest rated film on IMDb. See more »

Connections

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

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User Reviews

 
Worth watching closely
12 December 2010 | by matt605See all my reviews

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.


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