The Most Beautiful (1944)

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7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting look at wartime Japan


Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Most Beautiful

Studio:   Toho

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   April 13, 1944

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

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We march for Japan!

The War is raging and everyone in Japan is doing their part. In an optics factory a group of women are diligently working to try to meet quota to help their family, friends, and loved one keep up the fight at the front. Worked to the edge, the women struggle to find a way to keep going and succeed…even if it means sickness and injury, Japan will persevere!

Directed by Akira Kurosawa, The Most Beautiful (一番美しく or Ichiban utsukushiku) is a World War II Japanese propaganda film. It was the second film of Akira Kurosawa following Sanshiro Sugata in 1943.  Criterion released a remastered version of the film under their Eclipse imprint The First Films of Akira Kurosawa (Eclipse #23).

Propaganda films are just weird to watch…especially when they end up being on the losing side of the war. They are however a great reminder that people fighting a war often think they are in the right, and “right” or “wrong”, “good” and “evil” are pretty subjective to where you grow up and the life you live. The Most Beautiful isn’t Akira Kurosawa’s best film, but it is an interesting look at wartime Japan.

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Honor everything…including the volleyball

The characters in the movie hold all the ideals of the Japanese culture. They want to do be the best, do the most, and are willing to sacrifice themselves for it. The women aren’t catty, they don’t attack each other, and all the characters really are there for each other and their country. It is a nice change from a lot of movies which would have the characters involved in infighting and espionage…but it is a fantasy that was developed by the state.

The opening of the movie didn’t really feature any credits because of time, cost, and the idea that the characters are all one. It does manage to develop some of the characters, but with a rather short runtime, I wish more had been done…but it really isn’t about the individual as much as it is about the whole…fitting in with the pro-war story.

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County above self!

Akira Kurosawa is known for his visuals, but The Most Beautiful (due to its story and budget) isn’t the most visual of his movies. I like some of his shots of machinery and technology and in some ways the workers almost have a bit of a German expressionism look due to the stark nature of the film. It is a pretty simple film with a simple story.

While The Most Beautiful wasn’t Kurosawa’s most dynamic film but it was important to him. The war was already in danger for the Japanese and they had to know it wasn’t going to end well. Fortunately for Akira Kurosawa something positive came out of The Most Beautiful, Akira Kurosawa met his wife Yoko Yaguchi who play Tsuru in the film…and he remained married to her until she died in 1985. Akira Kurosawa followed The Most Beautiful with Sanshiro Sugata Part II in 1945.


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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