in about 100 words or less
Japan 85m, B&W
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Cast: Yoko Yaguchi, Takashi Shimura, Takako Irie
Ichiban Utsukushiku, also known as “The Most Beautiful” is probably the most visually artful and believable melodramatic propaganda film ever produced. Shot in a documentary style, the story takes place in an optics factory during the later stages of the Second World War. It centers on the lives of dozens of teen-aged girls who strive to exceed their production quotas to further Japan’s war effort. Oddly enough, the film is also quite a sensitive coming of age story, as suggested by the growth of the young women whose characters slowly evolve through their overwhelming determination, self-sacrifice, and tireless efforts. As with any propaganda film, it would be a mistake to outright dismiss the importance of the film, which arguably is now historical in nature, and one which North American audiences have rarely witnessed (Klaus Ming January 2011).