Friday, March 25, 2016

No Regrets for Our Youth

Directed and edited by Akira Kurosawa and screenplay by Eijiro Hisaita with additional work from Kurosawa and Keiji Matsuzaki, Waga seishun ni kuinashi (No Regrets for Our Youth) is the story of a professor’s daughter who copes with the many changes in her home country following her father‘s dismissal from a university over his views against Fascism. Based on the Takigawa Incident in 1933, the film is a look into the events that would shape the growth of Imperial Japan before World War II where a woman opposes the changes in her country. Starring Setsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita, Denjiro Okochi, and Takashi Shimura. Waga seishun ni kuinashi is a rich and captivating film from Akira Kurosawa.

Told in the span of twelve years from 1933 to the end of World War II in 1945, the film revolves the journey of a young woman from being a college professor’s daughter to becoming a suspect of espionage due to her husband’s activities to stop Japan from entering World War II. It plays into this young woman trying to find herself amidst these changes as she struggles to find an identity throughout the years in Japan’s history. The film’s screenplay does have a unique structure as the first act is set from 1933 to 1938 where Yukie Yagihara (Setsuko Hara) is this idealized professor’s daughter who looks into the many changes that is happening including student rallies and events that would force her to do things for herself.

The film’s second act is set largely in 1941 Tokyo where she tries to find independence on her own yet she meets an old friend and student of her father named Noge (Susumu Fujita) whom she always had fallen for. The film’s third isn’t about Noge’s actions to stop Japan from entering World War II but also its aftermath which has Yukie venturing into a more personal journey as it relates to Noge’s family. A family that she realizes hasn’t seen their son in years while having to endure the ridicule of their fellow villagers over their son’s actions. Yet, she would find a way to win them over where she would take great personal risk to get their approval as well as not be ashamed for what their son had done.

Akira Kurosawa’s direction is very intoxicating in not just the way he captures pre-war and war-era Japan where it is shot largely in Tokyo, Kyoto, and parts of rural Japan. While there are some wide shots of these locations, Kurosawa maintains that sense of intimacy into the film with the usage of close-ups and medium shots. Notably in scenes that involve Yukie and her parents along with being this object of affection for Noge and another friend in Itokawa (Akitake Kono) as the former is very passionate in his beliefs while the other is shy until he becomes a more serious individual in the film’s second act as a prosecutor. The direction also display that sense of melodrama as it relates to Yukie’s own confusion about what she wants to do as well as her time with Noge where she goes into mood swings yet it adds to her journey into finding herself.

Also serving as editor, Kurosawa would create some stylish dissolve montages to play into Yukie’s anguish as well as some rhythmic cuts for much of the film’s third act where Yukie tries to win over Noge’s parents. It would play into bits of melodrama but also showcase that sense of the unknown as it relates to what Yukie wants to do. It also has a bit of commentary on social classes where Yukie is from a bourgeoisie background of sorts while Noge comes from the world of farms and rice paddies. Yukie’s encounter to that world would be crucial to her development as well as providing some revelations about herself where Kurosawa would have the camera display these tight close-ups to showcase that sense of struggle but also an unlikely sense of fulfillment. Overall, Kurosawa creates an engaging and riveting drama about a woman trying to find herself during one of Japan’s most tumultuous periods in the 20th Century.

Cinematographer Asakazu Nakai does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography for much of the film‘s naturalistic look with many of the exteriors including that sense of murkiness for the scenes in the third act where Yukie tries to create rice paddies. Production designer Keiji Kitagawa does fantastic work with the look of Yukie‘s family home with its spacious rooms and countless books to the more decayed look of the home where Noge‘s parents live. The sound work of Isamu Suzuki does nice work with the sound as it play into the tranquility of the woods in Kyoto to more raucous sounds of Tokyo. The film’s music by Tadashi Hattori does amazing work with the sound with its approach to orchestral music that ranges from somber to playful while the soundtrack would also feature some classical pieces and piano sonatas.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Kokuten Kodo and Haruko Sugimura as Noge’s parents, Hisako Hara as Itokawa’s mother, Masao Shimizu as a fellow professor in Hakokazi, and Takashi Shimura in a superb role as a corrupt police commissioner working for the government. Eiko Miyoshi is wonderful as Yukie’s mother who copes with seeing her daughter moving out while being aware that of Yukie’s feelings for Noge. Akitake Kono is excellent as Itokawa as a friend and admirer of Yukie who was also one of her father’s pupils as he would try to help them out later on only to deal with his own faults. Denjiro Okochi is fantastic as Yukie’s father Professor Yagihara as an idealistic professor who is dismissed from his post due to his anti-Fascist/anti-war views as he tries to do whatever he can to help his students as well as his daughter in her journey for independence.

Susumu Fujita is brilliant as Ryuichi Noge as a student of Yagihara who always had feelings for Yukie while being passionate about not wanting to go to war where he tries to do things illegally only to get caught just as his relationship with Yukie was starting to blossom. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a phenomenal performance as Yukie Yagihara as this young woman has been defined as a good-hearted woman that helps people while pondering about her own future forcing her to go into her own quest for her identity in life along with revelations that would be the catalyst into find herself as it’s one of Hara’s finest performances.

Waga seishun ni kuinashi is a remarkable film from Akira Kurosawa that features a radiant performance from Setsuko Hara. The film isn’t just a unique character study of sorts of a woman trying to find herself during one of Japan’s most tumultuous periods. It’s also a film that showcases the great lengths that she would do in this journey. In the end, Waga seishun ni kuinashi is a rapturous film from Akira Kurosawa.

Akira Kurosawa Films: (Sanshiro Sugata) - (The Most Beautiful) - (Sanshiro Sugata Pt. 2) - (The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail) - (Those Who Make Tomorrow) - (One Wonderful Sunday) - Drunken Angel - (The Quiet Duel) - Stray Dog - Scandal - Rashomon - The Idiot - Ikiru - The Seven Samurai - (I Live in Fear) - Throne of Blood - (The Lower Depths (1957 film)) - The Hidden Fortress - The Bad Sleep Well - Yojimbo - Sanjuro - High and Low - Red Beard - Dodesukaden - Dersu Uzala - Kagemusha - Ran - Dreams (1990 film) - (Rhapsody in August) - (Madadayo)

© thevoid99 2016


Dell said...

I need more Kurosawa in my life. I've only seen Rashomon and Seven Samurai.

thevoid99 said...

So far, you've seen 2 of his classic work. There's some more to come but I'm going for his entire body of work which will probably take a few years. I've got another film of his in my DVR that I'm going to watch in a few days. After that, I think I have 12-13 of films to see left (one of them was a film he co-directed but it's very hard to find though many say it doesn't belong with the rest of his body of work). I'm getting closer at least and that will be one huge Auteurs piece on him as he is a giant in cinema.

Roman J. Martel said...

I've never seen this one, but your review has really intrigued me. I'm very familiar with most of his samurai era films and love most of them. But I've slowly been getting into his non-period films. They tend to be hit and miss for me, so maybe this one will click.

thevoid99 said...

@Roman J. Martel-I think the film is available on Hulu as it's also part of the Eclipse box set series from Criterion that focuses on his post-war work. I still have a film of his that I'm 2/3s done watching at the moment and it's likely that I'll be finished with his body of work in a few years with the exception of an obscure documentary and a film he did that is very, very, very hard to find though many say it's not a true Kurosawa film.