Monday, February 18, 2008

75. Film Review #3: Akira Kurosawa: ICHIBAN UTSUKUSHIKU (The Most Beautiful) (1944) (Part One)

A detailed analysis of the above film. Part One.




ICHIBAN UTSUKUSHIKU (The Most Beautiful) (1944)

I like to say that the worst of Kurosawa's 30 films, are better than what comes out of Hollywood, especially these days...

That being said, this film might be generally perceived, along with Sugata II, as "the worst."

It was made in 1944, his second film. If Sugata I was "propaganda," then -- in my opinion -- it was pretty much delightful propaganda to sit through for an hour or so.

I'm afraid the same cannot be said for this one. After ten minutes, you'll get the idea that these girls are the brave backbone of the Air Force, and hurrah for us, etc. It does get a little boring.

That said, don't forget that Akira Kurosawa is in charge. And he's about to meet his future wife!

***********

My DVD is put out by the Mei Ah Laser Disc Col, Ltd., out of Hong Kong, I believe.

The subtitles -- as in Sugata II -- are atrocious. Chinese names instead of Japanese, and just a really, really bad translation -- and I am not fluent in Japanese! You'll get the idea.

The first you see is a golden Oscar statue, with this:

On the 26th of March, 1990, won the 62nd American Oscar Special Honour Award.

I could find no mention of this at oscar.org, but it might be "another Oscar" perhaps.

[It is: Thanks to Vili Maunula for confirming that this is the 1990 Honorary Oscar Kurosawa received for "cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world." (I had thought it was some sort of award for this particular film. Unlikely.)]

The credits roll in Japanese without translation.

A box with Japanese characters.

"The war ceased."

[Obviously appended post-war.]

The Togo logo.

"This film became a national film." Music: girls singing.

The first shot is a downward pan on a wooden signpost, untranslated.

Cut to two loudspeakers. The voice that we hear is blasting, loud.

"I am The Head. I am The Head."

Cut to the room inside where "The Head" (Chief Goro Ishida) (Takashi Shimura) is speaking into a microphone. Ken Shinda, The Chief of General Affairs Section (Ichirô Sugai) bows to him.

Ishida: "Huh?" Shinda slides the microphone away from Ishida's mouth. Cut close on him, continuing:

"Now I announce to increase production. Effective on the first day of next month. The details will be given by the Admin Department. I want to warn you ..." The shot cuts back outside to the loudspeakers.

" ... Now the war is getting hot ..." Cut to several rows of workers, standing at attention.

" ... We need to increase the production. We need to work hard to meet this goal ..." Cut to two rows of very young workers.

" ... In order to maximize the productivity, we need to train up to be the best workers ..." Cut, showing workers and others listening to the speech.

" ... To obey the discipline, to be loyal ..." Cut, looking at people from behind.

" ... So as to increase the productivity, please remember these words. After the increase in productivity, to let you do your duty ..." Cut to rows and rows and young boys and girls.

" ... To train up yourself. I repeat ..." Cut to Shinda and the other, Soichi Yoshikawa, Chief of General Affairs Section (Shôji Kiyokawa), listening.

" ... Increase the productivity, train up your will ..." The camera pulls back to include Ishida.

" ... The future of our country. If the weapons of light are not developed, there is no great weapons. Please remember, that is." He gets up and Yoshikawa sits down and continues:

"The Head just now has expressed a clear message. Let me explain the details. The increase in productivity will last for four months. The goals are as follows ..." Close on him.

"Ten percent for men, 50% for women."

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #1

Some girls are talking. Yoshikawa and Shinda walk by and they all go back to their stations.

Cut to a similar scene shot through he windows of a door. This time, we don't see the two men approach, only the look on one of the girl's face as she sees them coming, and the group quickly scatters. Only then do the men come into the frame.

[See, even in his "worst" film, Kurosawa is being interesting!]

Cut to a medium shot of another part of the factory. Two girls are talking by the window. The two men walk by and they quickly scurry back to their work.

Cut to a shot around 80º to the left of the previous one. We know this because of the girls who are seen returning to their stations. This shot is a long one, showing much of this area of the factory.

Cut to a cluster of women talking, who quickly go back to work.

Cut to a straight on shot of two rows of work stations.

Cut to a girl carrying several long pipe-like objects in each hand as she passes the camera and says to a large group of girls huddled together, talking:

"You can't do that." We see her put the objects onto a viewing device -- they are telescopes. She sits down and

Cut to a wide shot of what she is looking out, out the window -- countryside. If you look carefully, you'll see an object in the distance that is the focal point of her next view. Cut back to her as she peers into the lens. Cut to what she is seeing: A large white circle with a close-up view of the area near the object, and the little vertical and horizontal lines with little cross hatches. The horizontal one has a "50" at each end of the line of cross hatches, with a "0" in the middle; the vertical has a "30". It goes out of focus. Cut back to her, adjusting. Cut back to the circle -- the "0" is right where she seems to want it. Cut back to her, she looks over at the girls.

"Calm down. Don't argue." A tall girl in the foreground:

"However." The group all shake their heads.

Shinda, off-camera: "You don't argue." The girls all turn to face the camera. Cut to a longer shot from behind the two men we now see. Shinda continues:

"What is the hell today? Why am I nervous?"

Yoshikawa: "Any reasons? Just tell me." The girl who was looking through the lens speaks:

"It's the ratio between men and women."

"The Head said clearly just now. Although it is painful today, the best people can get through. Think about if for the men. Just to reach an half of their production."

Girl: "Ask the head for her opinion.

"Are you Tao?"

The girls all answer in unison: "Hai." [Of course I don't get this. If "Tao" is a name of one of the girls (and I think it is), then why do they all answer, "yes"?]

Cut to a hallway with a standing sign in the middle: "Please calm down to walk."

Cut to a set of doors: "Hut Study Room."

Cut to a room, a wide shot of a row of girls working on the right, a sign in the middle: "No unauthorized persons." The only girl that moves in the slightest is the one closest to the camera. Cut to close-up on her.

It is Tsuru Watanabe, president of the women workers (Yôko Yaguchi).

[Her final film appearance. Shortly after this film was made, she married the director, Akira Kurosawa!]

She is inspected a lens. Cut to a shot of what she is seeing through the scope, similar to before. Cut to a shot of her hands carefully moving the lens around. Pan up to her face. She lifts her eyes from the scope, blinks a few times, and goes back to her work.

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #2

The room where Ishida gave his speech. Sitting left to right: Yoshikawa, Shinda and Watanabe. Yoshikawa obviously didn't like what he saw in the factory with so many groups of girls gossiping.

"It's my first time to see a workshop without discipline."

"Sorry," Watanabe responds. Cut close on Yoshikawa.

"You don't need to apologize." Cut to her.

"I should do this." Cut to Shinda.

"Some said you were unhappy with the arrangement." Cut to her.

"Yes." Cut to him.

"It's in accordance with their ability. I don't think it's not right." Cut back to her.

"We think that is unfair." Shinda is surprised. The camera pulls back into a three-shot.

Watanabe: "Our work for the country can't be ignored." The two men look at each other. She continues: "The productivity can be increased. Although we can't be compared with the men, at least we wish to reach two-thirds of theirs. Please approve." She bows her head.

VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) #1

A huge dining room.

"Following the Russian example Kurosawa devotes the camera to people. Rarely do we see a background, only occasionally is a room or a section of the factory examined. Usually, he fills his frame with girls, and a typical scene is one which occurs early in the picture. This is the dining hall shot where the camera is so high that the back wall is invisible [it's distant, but quite visible] and we are shown a field of girls receding into the distance. A shaft of sunlight illuminates the middle distance where the girl-leader and her friends sit talking. The effect is that nothing but these girls exists; hundreds of them seen, the few in the foreground demanding our attention. One thinks of Berlin: Die Symphonie der Großstadt (Berlin: Symphony of a Big City) (1927); one things more of Arsenal (1928)" [DR, p. 26).

The girls are happy and yelling at each other. Watanabe waves the noise away.

"Don't be happy. Celebrate if you can meet the goal. Don't think it's easy to do." A pause, the girls ponder what she just said, and she continues:

"Always feel unsatisfied and annoying. This attitude can't meet the requirement." She takes out her chopsticks and

Cut to three rows of girls, marching towards the camera, Watanabe in the middle front. Cut to another girl

"Tao, let's sing." Reverse shot on Watanabe's back. We don't see the girl who speaks:

"She is still angry. Her left shoulder will be lifted up when she's angry, look..." Indeed, Watanabe's left shoulder is higher than the right.

"Tao, are you still angry?" Cut to another girl.

"Needless to say ... left, right ... left, right ... left, right ..." Cut to a longer shot of the girls marching forward.

"Three, four, one ..." They sing:

"More than four hundred provinces/
To fight against the enemies/
More than 100 thousand soldiers/
The country is facing constraints/
Yuen Year 4 summer/
We're never scared/
Men protect the family/ ... "

(The singing continues throughout this next section.) Cut to a "dormitory worker" (Unpei Yokoyama) [I believe] sweeping the entrance to (sign):

"Women campus of Light" He looks back and the "dorm mother," Noriko Mizushima ("Shiu" in the translation) (Takako Irie), rushes by him. Cut to

a new perspective as Shiu rushes towards the camera, where she stops, smiling broadly as she listens to her charges singing. Cut to the entranceway, as the singing continues:

"The spirits for the country/
Smart troups/"

The worker, the mother and the girls enter the frame from the right, still singing:

"Holy spirits/
Everyone is angry/
And the tide waves! ..."

The girls are now all marching in place with Shiu in the middle.

"For the revenge/
To kill the enemies/
Even though there are 3 soldiers left/
It'll be the victory soon ..."

"Bonzai! (subs: Great!)," yells the worker. Cut to a closer shot with Shiu surrounded by the girls, who are all laughing.

Shiu: "You look very handsome today."

One of the girls: "It's very happy today."

Shiu: Talk about it later. The teacher of the band is coming. Just say hello to the parent."

Cut to a screen in a darkened room and two girls enter the frame and kneel. They speak simultaneously:

"Dad and mum, I am back." Cut to a higher view of the screen where you can make it a sign with lettering and (barely) make out a framed photograph on each side of the sign.

Cut to a closer (and better) shot of a family photograph:

"Back." Cut back to the previous shot.

"Back." Cut to another "shrine" with several pictures.

"Back." The girl then seems to address her family, from right to left in the pictures.

"Dad, mum, grand mum, I am back." Cut to a reverse angle shot of two girls. One of them repeats her greeting:

"Dad, mum, grand mum, I am back." She bows and then gets up and picks up a drum.

"Go away. What?" The other girl is still kneeling before her shrine.

"You make people jealous," she says softly. Reverse angle on what she's staring at -- a large Japanese character and a photo to the right. Cut back to previous shot. The girl is still staring at her family picture.

IRIS WIPE #1

Although it is extremely brief -- only a few frames -- and barely noticeable at normal speed. A girl at the end of a hallway is holding her drum.

"Everybody falls in at the room, except the kitchen men." We hear a group of girls answering, " ... hai! ..." She leaves and the camera remains fixed, as doors begin to open and girls with drums follow the girl away from the camera.

Cut to the fife and drum band instructor (Akitake Kôno). [Kôno was in Kurosawa's first five films, including a lead role in the fifth one, No Regrets for Our Youth. I wonder why Kurosawa stopped using him after that?]

"Be alert, ready to play. Three hits of the drum, then let's go. Step far, stand up. Play the song of the country, understand?"

"Hai."

"Start." Cut to Watanabe, in profile. Kurosawa holds on her for several seconds (was he in love?)

... cut to a longer shot facing the band. Watanabe waves her flag. The drummer hits three times. The music begins (no words). Cut to the instructor, listening. Shiu enters. They bow to each other. Two-shot while they listen. (The music continues throughout the following scene.)

Cut to three girls. One of them slides open the door.

"Teacher?" They slide open another door.

"Teacher?"

"He's not here ... so good smell!" One of the girl stoops down.

"Today is the ceremony of teacher husband's death." The other two girls move lower and the three of them clasp their hands together in prayer. Cut to a reverse angle shot of the teacher's shrine to her dead husband. Cut closer on the sword and a white cloth. Fade to black.

The music stops. Up on Shiu, close.

"The chapter we need to obey today ..." Reverse angle, behind Shiu, room filled with girls, who answer her in unison:

"Is always to have a loyal heart ..."

Shiu: "Respect the God forever ..."

Girls: "Take care of your parents ..."

Shiu: "And ..."

"Don't be naughty ..."

"Treat others with sincere ..."

"To work hard ..."

"We are girls ..."

"To fight against the British and American enemies ..."

"Let the children inherit this spirit ..."

"We swear."

Cut to outside. A nice composition, typical of later Kurosawa. Men are marching (music: martial trumpets and drums) down a road towards the camera, with buildings on the left and right and some wood logs stacked up on the bottom right of the screen. Lots of diagonals and angles in the shot.

Cut to a static shot of a street intersection; soldiers marching (the music now adds the fifes and we hear the "Song of the Country" (no words), and civilians milling about.

Cut to the building facade with the two loudspeakers. A banner:

"At the time of increasing productivity ..." Cut to a row of girls, working on the lenses. Another banner:

"Follow the troup." (The music stops.) Four cuts follow, girls working and a different banner in each cut:

"Follow the General Shan."

"Follow the Troup K."

"Increase the productivity, to fight against the enemies."

"Here is also a war place." We see Watanabe and one other girl working deliberately. Cut to Shinda, who grabs an ashtray and moves towards a seat opposite Shiu.

"You go back to the workshop. No wonder."

Shiu: "If we don't let the pupils do the same job, we can't let them have the seem feeling." Shinda prepares to light a cigarette. A quick axial cut.

"You should look further. What if any pupils feel sick? The health reports are available now. A men called Hou ..." Cut to Shiu, close. She is frightened. Shinda continues:

"Although there isn't any trouble. Doctor said her bones needed attention." Cut to four girls working over a stove. One turns to another and says,

"Don't talk about this boring things."

"Nevermind."

"No. Your bones are not good."

VERTICAL WIPE (bottom to top) #1

A girl runs down a hallway, and is met front and back by large groups of other girls. They gather at the top of the stairs, as the girl with "bad bones" says:

"Wait, I am measuring my temperature. It's 7.4 degrees. It's a little bit hot."

"You are healthy. The diseases are scared of you." Laughter.

"My bones are vulnerable." Cut to an entry in a book:

"Hou's temperature is 36.5 degrees. Other pupils are OK." Cut to a medium shot of Shiu, closing the book we just saw close up. Cut to a clock. 10:51. Cut to Shiu, close, opening a door. She looks.

Cut to two girls in bed. Cut to a view of a map, a doll and a wooden sign:

"Parents are in the garden." Cut back to the two girls, sleeping. Cut back and forth between various views of girls sleeping. One girl seems to be talking in her sleep:

"This mirror needs your attention." Cut to Shiu, smiling. She closes the door. Several more cuts of sleeping girls.

Shiu is tucking the arm of the sick girl under her blanket. She stays with her for a moment, and leaves. The girl wakes up and looks worried. Her gaze moves to her ... Cut to

Family portrait. Cut to the Japanese lettering, quick cut back on her, a tear in her eye. As she pulls the blanket over her head, a quick

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #3

Following the motion of the girls, marching and playing drums. Cut to a wide angle shot of the band marching forward. Fade to black.

Up on the dorm worker's legs. He is raking some dirt. Cut to his upper half. He looks up.

"So quite [quiet]. The children's absence makes here so quiet. It is so comfortable. Oh, there is someone." Cut to Shiu.

"Yes, she is not feeling comfortable."

"Who's the chick? It should be Hou."

"You should be shocked. It's Ling feeling sick."

"How come it's Ling?" He looks up and yells a little louder. "Work hard, to get rid of the sickness." He begins to sing as he goes back to his raking:

"More than four hundred provinces/
Fight against the enemies ..."

Cut back to Shiu, side view. She's laughing as he sings...

" ... More than 100 thousand soldiers ..."

The camera moves down and left to find Ling, lying in bed.

" ... The country is facing constraints/
Yuen Year 4 Summer ..."

Cut closer then back to Shiu.

Ling: "Sorry."

Shiu: "Needless to apologize."

"However ..."

"Don't worry about the work. There are still other classmates. They can be your models. Take a rest, get well soon."

"Sorry to trouble you all."

"Don't say that. Remember the time we first arrived here?" Close up on Ling, as Shiu continues:

"We all brought some home soil. Only you didn't." Cut to Shiu as Ling speaks:

"I always bring this with me. Dad says there was plenty of soil in Tokyo. I told him that it's to remember my home. I wish to use this to build a garden."

Shiu: "I can remember. Then he sent a small bag of soil." Camera still on Shiu.

Ling: "Dad is such a wild man." Close on Ling, Shiu speaks:

"Now this soil is colorful. All because of the workers." Suddenly, Ling sits up.

"Teacher, don't tell my home that I am sick!"

"Why do you say that?

"Please! Have you told them?"

"This is my responsibility. What happened?"

"I won't go back."

"What? You calm down first."

"Even if my family come to pick me up, I won't go back."

"What are you saying? How can you go back because of this?"

"No, I understand them. It's hard for me to arrive Tokyo. Dad is stubborn, he won't give up."

"Calm down first."

"I never go back. I want to stay here to work."

VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) #2

Fife and drum band. Close on Ling, tears streaming down her face. The camera pulls back. The instructor, having noticed Ling getting off the beat, waves the music away.

"What is that?" Cut to her father, Shiu and Ling descending stairs where the group is gathered. Several cuts between father, Ling and the other girls. Ling is kneeling on the floor.

"Sorry, coming back. Pass the work to Tao."

Watanabe: "Take it easy, the work is not important ..."

"Shan, Sai, Siu, thank you."

[Her use of the Japanese names here allows me to identify three of the girls:

Shan is Sachiko Yamazaki (Sachiko Ozaki); Sai is Fusae Nishioka (Shizuko Nishigaki) and Siu is Masako Koyama (Haruko Toyama).]

Several girls: "Don't worry."

Ling: "My machine is shaking seriously. If a new man is coming to replace me ..." Close on Watanabe, crying:

"Don't say that. Just get well and come back." Cut to a close-up of father. Cut to a wide shot that takes in the whole scene: Ling still kneeling, her father to her right and the group of girls in the back. Kurosawa holds on this for a bit, then the camera pans left as it follows Watanabe, who walks over to the band instructor. Two-shot.

Band instructor: "This is Ling's flute. Give her." Watanabe smiles. Close up of flute. Cut to a darkened room, where we see Watanabe, in silhouette, through the windows, holding the flute. She is still for a moment, then exits the frame on the right. Kurosawa holds on the empty space for a moment. Cut to a frontal close-up of Ling and her father. The camera pulls back. One of the girls asks the teacher,

"Can't we see her off?"

Shiu: "I'll take her to the station. Tao? Tao?" Watanabe comes forward through the group with Ling's flute. Medium shot -- a thoughtful composition: Shiu and father in foreground, left and right; Watanabe and Ling in the middle, with the rest of the girls further back. Gives the scene real depth.

"The band teacher asked me to give you." One of the girls pulls something out of her pocket and hands it to Ling:

"Just put it here." (It is some kind of covering for the flute.) Close on Ling, looking at her friends. Cut to the band instructor, smiling, and girls, crying. Cut back to Ling, as we hear the other girls' voices:

"Take care."

"Come back soon."

"Write to me." The girls' voices becomes a chorus of well-wishes.

" ... and come back soon!" Ling runs out.

"Good bye! Good bye!" Cut to father, slightly amazed. He takes off his hat as the girls bid him good bye. He bows. Cut back to the girls and cut to shoes and feet at ground level. Someone says

"Ling's is so pity." Cut back up to their faces.

"I also want to go home," says a girl standing next to Watanabe, who says,

"Don't cry." Pause. "Just work hard."

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the left) #4

Emphasizing the motion, as the band marches to the left, close to the camera, which stays fixed in this scene (in other scenes the camera dollies along with the marching bands)...

Dissolve to the factory, girls working. Girl in center of frame:

"We need to work hard."

"What are you doing? The water is not open!" Dissolve/fade to black

Up on a graph, showing an animated squiggly line moving generally upwards from left to right. Quickly dissolves to

Yoshikawa, Shinda and Ishida in a room.

Ishida: "The goal and the result. It's not bad, the women work so hard."

Shinda: "But the future is not easy."

Yoshikawa: "This is the struggle for the four months. Obviously they can't do it. Thus, there wasn't any big problem at the beginning. They may not be strong enough to face the impact.

Ishida: "This is true."

HORIZONTAL WIPE (to the right) #1

A blackboard with writing

"The work on the rest day. Do cleansing, ironing. Sun shining, but don't put it under the roof." Music: girls singing. Continues until here (**). Cut to a girl, standing on the roof.

"Can see the Fuji mountain. The home is so close." The camera pulls back. We see the girl through a window, blankets drying on the roof. Another girl speaks to her from the inside of the window:

"Stupid, your home is at the opposite side." She motions to hand her another blanket to put out. Someone calls out for her.

"Siu?" The girl on the roof is making her way towards the window. Cut to a hallway. Siu opens a door and enters the frame.

"Shan, be careful!" No answer. "Shan!" She goes back into the room. Cut to the roof. No Shan. Siu enters the frame at the window.

"Shan!" Pan right. Siu looks down. Cut to Shan, lying on the ground, with a blanket. Cut to ground level shot, looking up at Siu at the window. Axial cut to close up. She's startled. "Shan!"

VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) #3

(**) Shan in bed, surrounded by Shiu and the other girls. She looks around and smiles.

"Sorry. Luckily ..." (she looks at her hands) " ...you hands are not hurt. Work now if you can use a stick to do. Go back to work immediately." She continues to look around at all her friends. "You don't feel sad." Still on Shan as one of the girls says

"Don't worry about work."

"Yes, just take a rest."

Dissolve to a series of shots showing Siu doing her work, but she looks distracted and unhappy. Dissolve to

The graph again. This time the animated line is going sharply downward. Quick dissolve to

Street scene. Two girls are running across the street as we hear a voice (Siu):

"It's not rational ..." The camera pulls back to reveal her and the others in a tight group.

"We have tried our best. It's not reasonable to just blame us."

Another girl: "It's not true. Tao doesn't mean that. He just said Shan didn't do very well."

"However ... just be alert. It's disgraceful if we can't meet the target."

"This is not a problem of face. It's the problem of responsibility." The sound of aircraft flying overhead. Cut to view of same (six planes). The girls are all looking up.

Siu: "Don't quarrel with our friends. It's the most important to increase the productivity. That aeroplane is also carrying our products." She slams her hand down a barrel. Pan right to dorm worker.

"You have the same voice as the head!" Several cuts between him and Siu and the other girls. Laughter. Which continues into the next cut where we see

Watanabe, standing silently, seriously.

VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) #4

Two-shot, Watanabe and the worker. A vertical pole between them, right in the center of the frame. Worker:

"The is the most important time, the work is smooth. It's over. Don't be emotional. No proud no hurry. Be relaxing. Sometimes it needs to relax ..."

VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) #5

The volleyball game. Upbeat music. In several short cuts, one side scores a point.

"One to zero." The music stops, allowing the tension to build with the following dialogue:

"Sorry. Work hard."

"Let's play. Who is shooting? Yee?" Yee looks around, uncertain.

"I can't."

Watanabe: "Don't be nervious. Just try your best."

"Hai."

"Yee, work hard." Laughter.

Watanabe: "Quiet. Yee, we need your spirit."

Yee serves the ball. The music resumes. A wonderful montage follows, beginning with a nice crane shot, showing the entire volleyball court, the players and the spectators off to the left. In each of the next few cuts, Kurosawa brings the camera closer to the action -- until he is very close on various individual girls. Cut back to the wide crane shot. Cut back to close-ups. The scene ends with eleven very tight close-ups on smiling girls. The last cut is Watanabe, smiling.

Dissolve to the graph, the animated white line rising steadily. The graph dissolves back into Watanabe, still playing the game.

"Harder. Harder." The image of Watanabe slowly dissolves into

A letter, which the camera reads panning left. A male voice narrates:

"The winter is coming, you have to take care. And don't forget to be loyal. Be careful of the cold. It's hot. The body is weak. You wish to take care of mum at home. Now the workshop is struggling. You are the head of youngsters, be responsible. Your mum understands this. Forget about serving mum. You don't need to go home. Ignore any other things. Just work for the public. The parents feel the same. Just write to home ..."

The letter dissolves into Watanabe, reading it.

" ... Your mum wishes you take care, father."

Watanabe looks up and then back down again. Again, she jerks her head up. Cut to what she is looking at: photos of her mother and father. Quick close-up of the mother. Cut to Watanabe at a door:

"Teacher?" No response. She slides open the door. "Teacher?" No response. She stands still.

Cut to a book: "the trains time table." Her hand reaching for it, and cut to her sitting down, rifling through the pages. But she stops, confused. Another girl's voice (Siu, I think):

"Teacher? I am coming to measure the temperature."

Cut to Siu. "Isn't teacher here?" She leaves.

"Tell me. How much?" Stay on Watanabe as we see Siu's hand, as she hands Watanabe the thermometer.

"Six-point-five degrees." Watanabe looks up, concerned. Cut to Siu:

"It's not hot."

"How are you?"

"Nothing.

"You look strange."

"How come?"

"What are you lying to me?"

"Nothing." Cut back to Watanabe. She shakes the thermometer. Cut to a wider, two-shot. She hands Siu the thermometer.

"Measure again." Siu slowly puts the thermometer under her arm.

"Tyo wait for five minutes." Close up on a clock. "7:25." Close on Siu's back. On Watanabe. Smash cut, same angle, but she is clutching the train schedule. Cut, resting her head in her hand. Cut, turned towards the side. Siu is softly whimpering. Cut to her back again. She turns and faces Watanabe.

"In fact, I am having fever every day. It's nothing, it's not hard. Please keep the secret for me ..." Watanabe begins to stand up, but sits down as Siu continues:

" ... If they know this, they'll ask me to take a rest. I am really OK. Ling and Shan are not here." Watanabe rises.

"But Shan ..."

" ... Please! Talk about this after their return and the period. Please keep the secret for me." Reverse (outward) axial cut. Singing. Axial cut (inward). The two are just standing there, Siu sobbing, softly. Another axial cut, closer. Another. And another. And finally, one more, Watanabe and Siu filling most of the frame, left and right, an empty space in the middle.

Siu: "It's so jealous of you." Heads bowed, but suddenly they hear someone coming. Cut back to wide shot. The singing stops as Shiu enters.

"You are here. I just went to visit Shan. She looked okay and said hello to you. You wait a moment ..." She moves into the other room, but turns and asks them:

"What?"

Watanabe: "It's Shan's temperature." Siu/Shan (?) turns her head quickly towards Watanabe. Quick cut close on the two girls.

"How much?"

"Six-point-five degrees." Siu thanks Watanabe with her eyes and hands (clasped). Watanabe shuts her eyes and turns her head away. Still from off-camera, Shiu:

"It's OK. Any thing else?" Fife and drum band begins playing. Watanabe, looking like she feels guilty:

"Nothing." Cut to the bookshelf. The train schedule being put back.

VERTICAL WIPE (top to bottom) #6

Marching. Suddenly the band comes to a halt, and their music is replaced by somber military music from the loudspeakers. Cut to an intertitle:

"Peter Island." Cut to the girls, looking up at a poster. Cut to another intertitle -- no translation. Cut to a close profile of Watanabe, shot from below a bit. Cut to another intertitle:

"Ka Rocks." Cut to a group of girls, the camera dollies back. Cut to intertitle:

"Lu O." Close up of Watanabe:

"Work hard." Military music becomes more upbeat.

Beautiful Russian-style montage (52 seconds), comprised of 16 different cuts of girls working, all close-up. The last cut is Watanabe, looking into microscope as the music ends.

Dissolve to the graph, the line rising sharply. Dissolve to the fife and drum band, marching towards the camera. Pan left as they pass the camera position, and we see railroad tracks, and off in the distance, Shan, on crutches, waving. Closer on her, waving. Suddenly, a train passes, left to right, filling the screen.

Cut to a reverse medium shot from behind Shan, waiting for the train to pass. She moves around and occasionally peers under the train. [Kurosawa will do a similar shot in One Wonderful Sunday.]

Part Two

1 comment:

Lewis Saul said...

I will add the new, comprehensible subs soon!