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Saturday, April 16, 2011


The first film Akira Kurosawa initiated after WWII was this sweeping woman’s story. (His only film with a female in the leading role?) Setsuko Hara is Yukie, a professor’s daughter who all the students trail after. Yet she’s too much a contrarian to follow her heart to Noge (Susumu Fujita), a radical intellectual type. But it’s 1933 and the rapid rise of the political right changes the culture & social landscape of Yukie’s life: Noge is arrested; her Pop loses his university position; she moves to Tokyo and begins a series of dead end jobs; reunites with Noge who has found success in the capital after a stint in jail & work in China; loses him again; but then bonds with his rice farming parents . . . what? Good grief, is this Akira Kurosawa or Edna Ferber? Well, it’s unexpected terrain, but largely, the melodramatic woman’s issues are effectively handled. And if some of Kurosawa’s showy editing tricks don’t really fit the moment, the consistently fine perfs smooth things over. If only Kurosawa seemed more convinced about Yukie’s self-sacrifice & stubborn fidelity to the principled thing to do. Kurosawa grumbled in his auto-bio about having to shoot a rewritten script (the last act is stuffed with enough grit & uplift to please a Soviet film commissar), so perhaps other chefs over-egged this pudding. Great title, though.

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