No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)

1 11 2008

I must be missing something extremely important here, because I personally think this is one of the very best Japanese films of the 1940s. There wasn’t much competition in that category, what with the war and its aftermath, but still I can’t help but wonder why this isn’t more well-known. It stars the great Setsuko Hara in one of her few pre-Ozu performances that is widely available for western audiences. She’s absolutely amazing in this, as is the great Haruko Sugimura and they’re both placed in the rough, gritty, yet poetic landscapes of Akira Kurosawa, quite possibly the most famous Asian filmmaker of all-time. Yet, not many people seem to be ecstatic about this film as I am.

I’ve read a few reviews stating that this is essentially Kurosawa trying to do an Ozu film, but that is actually pretty far from the truth. It’s extremely hard to comprehend, but this was before Ozu even started his now famous collaboration with Setsuko Hara. This is still one of Kurosawa’s most gentle efforts, but at this point in his career, he had yet to become a full force “action” director. It’s not as though this is his self-conscious attempt at making a more human drama. His earliest efforts do point to his interest in being an action director, but I’m guessing this is most likely a result from Kurosawa channeling two of his greatest influences: John Ford and Sadao Yamanaka.

She made many films in between, but there is still a chance that Setsuko Hara caught Kurosawa’s eye in Yamanaka’s Kochiyama soshun, one of his three surviving films and the only one currently unavailable with English subtitles. Hara’s performance here is a bit more dramatic than her collaborations with Ozu, but that’s almost a given. She is still an absolute joy to watch. There’s something extremely appealing about her, that (I think) goes beyond physical appearance. She perfectly evokes a sense of nostalgic longing that immediately echoes Hiroshi Shimizu’s work, particularly Kanzashi, which this film gives a few visual nods towards. Kurosawa’s film does not have that superficial upbeatness, but is instead, more emotionally straight-forward. Both films prove that the two approaches can be equally effective.

When Hara’s character goes to visit her dead husband’s parents in the film’s final act, the visual beauty is taken to another level. These gritty, sweaty, and dirty sequences seem to owe much to John Ford, particularly films like How Green Was My Valley and The Grapes of Wrath. Kurosawa emulates the lovely visuals of Ford’s films and transports them to his own type of rough and battered landscapes. At the same time, he enfuses these beautiful montages displaying poetic sides of the film’s opening. At any time in the movie, it seems like Kurosawa is willing to quickly cut to the shot of college kids running through the woods while having a soft-spoken voiceover reinforce the heartbreaking nostalgia felt by Hara’s character. At the very least, this is definitely the best ending I’ve seen in any Kurosawa film. This is probably his best film overall as well.

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One response

20 11 2008
Ali Davut

its great, thank u very much 🙂

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