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The Most Beautiful: Art / Life: Umbilicus

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    I’ve tried (and failed) to analyze The Most Beautiful on a symbolic level, but there is one other thing that peaked my interest. The film culminates in Watanabe’s ultimate sacrifice for her country in a time of war: the death of her mother. She receives news that her mother is dying, but instead of going home to be with her mother in her final hours, she chooses to remain at the lens factory fulfilling the duty she has to her country, which in the context of the film is the greatest thing a citizen can do for their country.

    It has been noted (specifically by Richie), that Kurosawa not only changed his view on this issue later but took a very antithetical position. For him personal salvation became attainable through the individual and not the group. But it is quite odd (and perhaps eerie) that Kurosawa’s own life would mirror The Most Beautiful not long after. As most people here probably know, while making Drunken Angel, Kurosawa received word that his father was in poor condition, but there was so much pressure at Toho to finish the film on time that Kurosawa chose not to go home to his father and instead finish his film. His father soon died, and Kurosawa was never able to see him alive. Wow! That is an almost word for word reenactment of The Most Beautiful.

    Here Country has metamorphosized into Studio, or, more accurately, Picture. Kurosawa’s sacrifice is not for the good of his nation but for the good of his art (within in the responsibilities he feels he has for the studio supporting the picture). Through No Regrets for our Youth, One Wonderful Sunday, and Drunken Angel we can see the changes in Kurosawa’s beliefs of country and individual. In fact, the film Drunken Angel is almost a culmination of his newer beliefs (in Matsunaga’s attempts to extricate himself from the Yakuza — but I’ll save this for a later discussion).

    I’m quite curious of how Kurosawa felt later about his decision to finish his film like Watanabe. It’s interesting to note that in his Autobiography he doesn’t touch on this at all. In fact, he only brings up the incident to illustrate how he chose the incongruous music for a certain scene in Drunken Angel. Kurosawa writes in his Autobiography this: “Take ‘myself,’ subtract ‘movies,’ and the result is ‘zero.'” I wonder if his sacrifice for his film was justifiable in his eyes in a way that sacrificing oneself for nation would no longer be.



    I wonder if Kurosawa, while filming Drunken Angel, may have hoped that his father would last until he wrapped the production. Unless I’m mistaken, they were pretty close to the end of the shoot when the bad news arrived, and Kurosawa was under pressure to meet a deadline. For a young director, it must have been a difficult decision to make.

    Some forty years later, Kurosawa of course halted the production of Ran to stay by his wife during her last weeks. This time, the production was delayed, and the film didn’t end up making it to Cannes where it was supposed to premiere.

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