After spending the last half a year looking at Rashomon and its various permutations, the Akira Kurosawa Film Club now leaves behind that web of lies and self-deception and moves onto a totally different web of lies and deception. Propaganda films.
The difference is not huge. The characters in Rashomon shape their narratives in ways which promote a specific interpretation of reality in order to influence other characters. Propaganda films do the same, only with us viewers as the target of their reality bending exercise.
We will start our year-long journey into propaganda by discussing Kurosawa’s second directorial work The Most Beautiful (1944), made at a time when Japanese film production was both limited and strongly shaped by wartime conditions. Together with Kurosawa’s next film Sanshiro Sugata Part II, which we will be watching later this year, The Most Beautiful is a prime example of Kurosawa having to work within those conditions without necessarily sharing the ideology behind them.
The Most Beautiful is a documentary style look at a group of female factory workers labouring to increase production for the service of Japan’s war effort. Kurosawa went to great lengths to inject realism into the film, and the end result shows it. You can find more information on the (still somewhat unfinished) filmography page on The Most Beautiful, while the Kurosawa biography pages will give you a biographical context. For the film’s availability, check out the DVD page.
In his autobiography written in the early 1980s, Kurosawa called The Most Beautiful the film most dearest to him. This has puzzled many commentators, some suggesting that Kurosawa may not have been quite as opposed to the wartime regime as he has typically suggested. Others have pointed out that the remark must rather come from a deeply personal connection that the director had with the film: he ended up marrying one of the actresses and spending the rest of his life with her.
After The Most Beautiful, we will be continuing with some of the most awe-inspiring, beautiful, vicious and damaging propaganda films ever put on celluloid. For more information about the film club, including a full schedule, head over to the film club page.