Still playing catch-up.
Kurosawa became a great artist in the post-war years of American occupation, but he couldn’t seem to make two good films in a row. He would make a good, really good, or even great motion picture, then follow it with an out-and-out turkey. He didn’t break this cycle until he followed Ikiru with Seven Samurai.
But I’m not there yet. Not be a long shot. Here are his first two post-war films, both of which I have watched within the last six weeks.
No Regrets for Our Youth was Kurosawa’s first film where he didn’t have to answer to Japanese military censors. Instead, he had to answer to American military censors. But since they were promoting progress, free speech, and democracy, they were a definite improvement. I’ve always had a soft spot for this movie, which I’ve seen a couple of times theatrically. It’s Kurosawa’s only film (after The Most Beautiful) with a female protagonist, and the only one that’s unquestionably political and leaning leftward.
It’s the story of liberals and radicals and what they went through during the years of military dictatorship, as seen through the eyes of a young, initially apolitical woman. There’s nothing in the style that suggests Kurosawa, but there’s a joyful sense of freedom to it.
Perhaps, at the very beginning of the occupation, he felt optimistic.
One Wonderful Sunday is one terrible movie. A young couple who have been dating for years (and still haven’t gotten to first base) try to have a fun day on the town despite having almost no money between them. Think Before Sunrise without good dialog, interesting characters, or real sexual tension.
I had seen this piece of drek once before, at the Pacific Film Archive, maybe 30 years ago.
Next: Drunken Angel