Monday, February 18, 2008

81. Film Review #6: Eclipse Series 7: Akira Kurosawa: WAGA SEISHUN NI KUINASHI (No Regrets for Our Youth) (1946) (Part One)

A detailed analysis of the above film. Part One.



WAGA SEISHUN NI KUINASHI (No Regrets for Our Youth) (1946)

Hattori's vigorous score begins immediately -- over the abbreviated Toho logo and into the title screen and credits -- all against black background...

The "heroic" style of this opening music gives way to a more gloomy atmosphere as the film opens with an intertitle:

"Japanese militarists used the Manchurian Incident as a pretext to press the public for support to invade the Asian mainland. Any opposing ideology was denounced as 'Red.' The Kyoto University Incident was one example of this tactic. Although this film was inspired by that historical event, the characters portrayed herein are entirely fictional." Fade to black...

Another title: "Kyoto." Fade to black.

Up on a wide road. Two people (farmers?) are walking down the road balancing straw or baskets above their heads -- another large group of people is walking up towards the camera, including a girl in a white hat, Yukie Yagihara (Setsuko Hara). She imitates the action of balancing something on her head to group laughter. [This is an amazing "clue" to her fate!] Dissolve to...

Yukie picking flowers in a field; the others can be seen on the road behind her. She runs to catch up. Dissolve to

Yukie's father (Professor Yagihara) (Denjiro Okochi) and mother (Eiko Miyoshi) sitting on some grass above a lake. He is smoking a cigarette; she is looking up at him, fanning herself with a cloth. They turn around at the sound of a yell.

"Teacher!"

Cut to POV behind Yukie and her father's students: "Father!" she cries, as they all wave.

Yukie and the students stop waving and begin to leave to the left.

Cut to the edge of the lake, POV foot level, as their feet march by right to left. Someone begins to whistle. Then they all sing:

"Flowers on the knoll/
Blazing crimson red/
Plants along the river/
A bright, glowing green/
I sigh in delight/
at the flowers of Kyoto/
The moon rising high/
Above Mount Yoshida"

Long shot on the whole group from behind, frame left, lake on the right...

Cut to a path; camera at leg level -- legs going by right to left, including Yukie's...

Cut to a new POV, slightly overhead on the group as they come up the path (still singing)...

Quasi-dissolve to a swift current in the water. The students are hopping over rocks to get across the stream. Two male students get across and

Cut, close-up, Yukie is on the last rock before the bank. Both men hold out their hands to help her: Ryukichi Noge (Susumu Fujita) on the left and Itokawa (Akitake Kôno) on the right.

Close on Yukie who seems to relish the attention.

Back to Noge and Itokawa. Noge takes the initiative and walks into the stream to assist Yukie. He picks her up and carries her to the bank, to the applause of the other students waiting to cross. Itokawa seems hurt by Noge's actions. Yukie teases him, tugging at his cap, and the students go off running (filmed from the POV of the rocks in the stream! -- as we see Yukie, Itokawa and Noge running up the path, we see the feet of the students in the closer foreground crossing the stream).

Dissolve to Yukie and the other students running through the woods. Many rushing close-ups, filmed in the same style as Kurosawa would use in Rashomon four years hence...

Another soft dissolve to Yukie lying in the grass.

"The earth smells so wonderful," she begins.

"The sky's nice, too," continues another, as a leftward pan begins -- past Noge, wiping his glasses, to another student:

"So is the wind."

"It's all wonderful," concludes another.

The pan stops with a view of the city below -- one student lying down in bottom center; another fills up the left part of the frame. This one states:

"I can see the university."

Closer shot on the university. Back to a longer shot of the view, with five students looking out.

"Freedom!" begins a student, his voice rising with emotion.

"Kyoto Imperial University, cradle of freedom. Resplendent ivory tower! Mecca of learning!"

His speech is cut short by the sound of gunfire. They all look around. Noge glances over his shoulder at the noise and speaks:

"'Cradle of freedom?' We can sing about academic freedom all we want, but fascism's on the rise since the Manchurian Incident."

"Back on your favorite subject, I see," Yukie says sarcastically. She hops up and asks Itokawa,

"Itokawa, are they on maneuvers?" More gunfire. "I can see them. They look tiny from here. I love that sound. It's so clear and rhythmic. It makes my heart race!" Accompanied by even more gunfire, she skips along like a little child. Suddenly she stops.

"What's wrong?"

"A snake?"

Yukie is staring at the ground. Others join her. The camera pans down. We see a wounded soldier, barely moving.

Cut to Professor and Mrs. Yagihara.

"I'm exhausted," she says.

"We're getting old," he adds. More gunfire attracts their attention, as well. The camera pans left across the mountains in the distance and superimposed, just before a fade to a black background in white letters: "1933."

Cut to University. Cut to a newspaper article with a photograph of Professor Yagihara:

"ACADEMIC FREEDOM UNDER ATTACK/
PROFESSOR YAGIHARA EXPELLED FROM UNIVERSITY/
EDUCATION MINISTER'S DECISION PROVOKES FACULTY IRE/
STUDENTS RIOT IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM"

Cut to a nameplate: "YAGIHARA RESIDENCE."

Noge is speaking, but the camera is initially pointed towards the woods and mountains outside.

"The militarists, backed by industry, seized Manchuria from China..." As Noge continues, the camera now shows us the open windows on a room at the residence, with a cluster of flowers in the foreground -- perhaps Kurosawa is emphasizing Yukie's innocence with the idyllic image while Noge speaks his hard truth. The camera now takes us inside the room. Noge is putting his glasses on. He continues:

" ... Japan then pulled out of the League of Nations. They hope to resolve Japan's internal contradictions through foreign conquest."

Begin rightward pan showing us Itokawa (reading a newspaper) and finally Yukie.

"All you talk about are Manchuria, militarists, and industrialists. I hate leftists."

Cut to Itokawa who makes a face and goes back to his paper.

Cut to Noge: "That's not true. And it's all relevant."

Cut to Yukie, but Noge continues to speak. The reason for this shot is to show us more of Yukie's reaction to all these words -- she is fidgeting in her seat as Noge speaks.

"They want the public to support their expansionist agenda."

"My father is a liberal, not a Red..." interrupts Yukie.

Noge: "They brand anyone who opposes aggression a Red."

Yukie: "My father is in the right, and right will prevail."

Noge: "He said the same thing. He wants the faculty to resign en masse to make the minister reconsider. But the minister's a party boss with connections to industry. He's colluding with the militarists to suppress freedom of thought. 'Make him reconsider?' How naive."

Cut to Itokawa. Kôno's acting is brilliant here. With just his eyes, as his head turns to Yukie, we can see the horrible fate in store for ... somebody!

Yukie: "Then what do you suggest?"

Noge: "As I said before, the Manchurian Incident was a result of the militarists' expansionist policies. We must fight to overthrow militarism -- nothing less. We tried to convince your father, but he wouldn't listen. Wait and see. The faculty will lose..."

"You almost sound happy!"

"I want them to win. But as long as they're naive and blind to the truth, they're bound to lose!" Yukie rises suddenly.

"Let's not talk about this. It's boring. Unlike you, I don't think the world runs solely on logic. There must be more beautiful things, more pleasant things." She suddenly grabs Itokawa's arm.

"Itokawa, you want to hear some nice music?" She is literally dragging him from the chair. "Come on!"

Noge: "That's the trouble with you," as he sits...

Cut to Yukie and Itokawa, her arm around his on the way to the piano...her expression changes as Noge continues...

"Why don't you listen to what people say? All you know of life are the pretty scenes outside your window ..." Yukie is looking through folios for the sheet music she seeks...

"... surrounded by your father's fawning students..." Close on Yukie, startled at this.

"Maybe you need a slap in the face to grow up! You ridicule logic..." She now sits at the piano; he continues: " ... but beauty and pleasure not founded on reason are mere bubbles."

In a lovely shot, Itokawa moves over to the piano and pulls off the cloth which covers the keys and puts it on top of the piano. This position frames Yukie in the shot with his arm and body providing the frame. Close on Yukie; she clenches her jaw and begins to play "The Great Gate of Kiev" section from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Cut to Noge. Long hold on Yukie, playing with intensity, back to Noge. Close up on his cap, which he picks up and leaves.

On Itokawa, turning to see Noge leave.

"Itokawa, turn the page," she orders. He obediently leans over and turns the page of the music. Cut to hallway, Noge putting on his shoes.

"Leaving so soon?" says Mrs. Yagihara rushing into the frame...

"Yes. My regards to the professor."

"Won't you stay for dinner?"

"I'm in a hurry."

"I see." He bows.

As he opens the door we see Mrs. Y looking straight ahead (obviously seeing her husband coming home).

"Look."

Presently he is at the door, with another man. Noge bows to both.

"Leaving already?" The other man speaks:

"Noge, it's outrageous what the minister just said." Professor Y pulls a newspaper from his coat and hands it to Noge. The other man continues: "'I'll shut down an entire department if that'll solve the problem.' That's where things stand."

Yagihara: "The professors at Tohoku University rose up too." A lull in the conversation as the Mussorgsky continues to ring out. Finally, Noge speaks:

"Professor ... I know you don't approve, but I've decided what I must do."

Yagihara, laughing politely: "I like your spirit, but don't neglect your duties as a student." Noge bows and leaves.

Cut to outside, Noge from behind, walking down the street. He pauses as he hears the music. He pulls a little leaf off a bush and throws it into the street as we walks off...

[The image of Noge walking down this path, in conjunction with the Mussorgsky, conjures up an ominous feeling.]

...the music still playing, cut back to Yukie, from behind, which was a terrible mistake because there was no way Kurosawa was going to match this shot up with the music. Perhaps he tried, but it does not match up at all, and comes off as a bit comical...

...so the film shows her flailing her arms away to music which does not match the soundtrack and suddenly she stops, turns on the piano bench, and gets up. She walks past Itokawa and slumps down into a chair.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

She takes a cigarette out of a case.

"You want to smoke?" he asks. She is now facing him with a cigarette in her mouth, so he apparently takes that as a "yes."

"Are you sure?" he asks her. He flicks his lighter, but as he offers it, she turns away and removes the cigarette from her mouth.

POV from behind Itokawa looking at Yukie. She has a strange expression on her face.

"Itokawa, get on your knees." She seems calmer now, less agitated. "Kowtow and apologize to me," she says sweetly.

"For what?" asks the gentle Itokawa, which is just what I was thinking...

Close-up on Yukie. "Whatever you want! Just do it, okay? Please. Come on, hurry up! Okay?"

Somber music begins. We imagine he is bowing to her although we do not see him. She is not looking down at him either, but looking straight ahead, her eyes frozen. Her expression grows colder. This very long hold on her face lasts for about 35 seconds! Finally, she bites her hands, and suddenly snaps out of her reverie -- she realizes Itokawa is at her feet and she comes down to his level...

"What are you doing?" she asks. "Stop! That's enough!" She runs into the hallway. Close-up -- she is still biting her finger. Itokawa enters the hallway, speaking as if nothing had just happened...

"Don't let Noge get to you. He's so brazen. He's blunt with everyone." She turns to face him.

"That's okay. He was just telling the truth -- something you're incapable of doing."

Cut to Itokawa, looking even more hurt than before. Dissolve to

A rightward pan of a row of students' hats, hung up on pegs.

A very dynamic shot follows. We see a group of students, all seated around a table except Noge, who stands. The camera pulls back to reveal the POV -- from outside a window, looking in. Then a cut to the interior, taking in Noge and several other students. A man enters the room.

Noge: "Sorry to keep you so late."

"Nonsense. I'm just a janitor, but for academic freedom ..." He pulls the cover off a plate of buns with great theatricality. " ... I pull out all the stops." He hands Noge the plate. The students all applaud.

"You can't fight on an empty stomach."

"You're all right, old man," someone says.

"I'm very fond of Mr. Noge. If I were a girl, I wouldn't leave you alone." Laughter. Cut to a banner:

"FEDERATION OF STUDENT SELF-GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATIONS"

Several beautiful overhead shots of masses of students, all identically dressed in their dark uniforms, congregated at the gates of the University. Banners are unfurled:

"TRUTH LIES IN ACADEMIC FREEDOM"

"FIGHT FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH/HELP OUR COMRADES IN KYOTO"

Dissolve to a close-up on newspaper article.

"EDUCATION MINISTRY PERSUADES PROFESSORS TO RECONSIDER" Dissolve:

"PROFESSORS RETRACT RESIGNATIONS" Quick dissolve to another banner:

"KYOTO UNIVERSITY WILL NEVER SURRENDER!"

In this section of the montage, there are four separate scenes separated by dissolves:

Groups of students, five or six abreast, trotting out of the gates (dissolve);
Large group, moving from left to right (very short cut) (dissolve);
Wide shot of an even larger group, as some students (two with large banners), rush down the steps (dissolve); and
The "Battleship Potemkin" Odessa Steps tribute! A rush of students running down steps, shot from a low angle.

Dissolve to another banner:

"STOP FASCISM!"

The music builds, the students clash with the police, in three separate cuts, this time separated by straight cuts, not dissolves.

Camera begins at foot level and pans up to rushing group. Holds on group rushing past camera. Cut. Very quick edit, filmed from above the group. Cut. This cut is the longest (about seven seconds). The police rush in and arrest the students.

Dissolve to another newspaper article:

"EDUCATION MINISTER PLAYS GOLF WITH BUSINESS, MILITARY LEADERS"

Dissolve to two golfers, laughing -- leftward to pan to a man smoking a pipe and taking a swing with a golf club...

Dissolve to another newspaper:

"RIOT POLICE CALLED IN/RIOT LEADERS ARRESTED"

Cut to a wide variety of shots of horses, students, police, all mixed up in a conflagration of chaos. Soon we see arrested students being led off into trucks.

Now we see Noge in one such truck. He and his fellow students sit, grim-faced.

Newspaper:

"ACADEMIC FREEDOM CRUSHED/KYOTO UNIVERSITY CAPITULATES" Dissolve

"KYOTO UNIVERSITY INCIDENT ENDS/DEFEATED STUDENTS SENT HOME/PROFESSORS DISPERSE"

Dissolve to the table where Noge and the students sat talking only a few scenes ago! Now the table is surrounded by only a very few students. The janitor speaks:

"Where's Noge? What happened to him?" No one answers him.

"Pull yourselves together! Stop moping. We lost the battle, not the war!"

Quick dissolve to a large group of students in an auditorium. Prof. Yagihara is speaking to them.

"Gentlemen. I ask you to consider the situation calmly. Clearly, we have lost."

Cut to the other professor who had come with Yagihara to his home before. He gives
Yagihara a look. The professor continues:

"But, gentlemen ... justice will certainly triumph."

Cut to the students. They don't look as confident.

"This year's flowers have been scattered, but when the time comes, they will bloom again." The camera alternates between the students' doubting expressions and Yagihara's friend.

"No matter what hardships may befall a man ..." continues the professor as the camera returns to him --

"... the important thing is that he try to learn from them."

Cut to the students and back to Yagihara, each looking increasingly uncertain.

"We did our best to resist the fury of the reactionaries. As we try to survive the times ahead ..." Cut to students as he continues.

"... we must remember this incident. as a valuable learning experience."

Dissolve to students, in a bar, arm-in-arm, singing:

"Hundred of miles from Tokyo/
Kyoto University/
Was caught in fascism's glare/
Freedom and independence/
were crushed beyond repair"

Cut to Yagihara's house. A group of students sit at a table with the professor and Yukie is gracefully serving them tea. One of the students speaks:

"Of course, despair is a kind of escape, but escape won't solve anything. We want ..." Another student interrupts:

"Professor, we're determined to continue the struggle. We'll drop out, if need be."

Another speaks: "Why stay here without freedom?"

Yagihara leans forward and puts out his cigarette. "Thank you. I appreciate your sentiments. But I can't approve of your approach."

"Why not, sir?"

"What would I say to your parents? Think how sad they'll be if you drop out, right as you're about to graduate." He turns towards the student seated to his left:

"You said your sister is providing for you. She's endured so much. Think how she'll take the news." The student bows his head...

"But Mr. Yagihara..." Cut to Yukie, who is done serving the tea and is about to leave the room, her back to the camera, her head turned, while her father speaks.

"I understand how you feel, but ..." as we watch Yukie back out of a door into the hallway (cut) and seen now coming out the door from this hallway, where she meets her mother.

"The usual group of seven?" asks Mrs. Y.

"Only five tonight," answers Yukie, smiling.

"That's unusual..."

"The cock of the walk couldn't make it." [VHS translation: "The leader's missing."] She turns serious. "I wonder what happened to Noge and Itokawa?"

Cut to Itokawa at a table with a woman -- his mother (Hisako Hara). Itokawa is writing something while she speaks.

"You finally entered university. Three years left to go, then two. You don't understand. All I've thought about is how many years you have left. Now you want to quit with just a year to go. If your father were still alive, you'd be free to do as you please. But you should think of me. We've been living on what your father left us, and there isn't much left." She moves to a chest and opens a drawer. The camera is now behind the bars of the door as it shows her opening the drawer and then moves to show Itokawa, still sitting at the table.

Cut to the students at the Yagihara residence, with Mrs. Yagihara and Yukie.

"I wish Noge were here," says one.

"Itokawa too," says another.

"Where are they when we need them?" Close on Yukie.

"What happened to Itokawa?" she asks.

"He double-crossed us," says one.

Yukie: "Double-crossed you?"

Another: "That's not true."

"It's still not clear."

"He called this meeting and didn't show up!"

Yukie: "What about Noge?"

"Noge won't be back."

Yukie: "Why not?" Close on Yukie. She is alarmed.

Student: "He disappeared a week ago." Mrs. Yagihara enters the scene.

"Arrested again?" she asks.

Student: "No, they released him."

Another: "Student protests aren't enough for him. He wants action."

Another (putting his shoes on): "He goes all out no matter what he does."

The students bow to the ladies. "Good night." Yukie and her mother are standing alone. Mrs. Yagihara bends down to pick something up (a fan?). She turns and stares at Yukie, in silence.

Cut to a room in the house. Professor Yagihara sits on a chair, his back to the camera. Mrs. Yagihara enters and sits on a chair.

"I'm worried."

Professor: "Their passion is a good thing."

Mrs. Y: "I mean about Yukie." The camera rests on the professor while Mrs. Y continues to speak (you see, Woody Allen didn't invent this technique!) --

"...She's concerned about Noge. Not that she said she loves him or anything ..." He laughs as the camera pulls back to a position behind Mrs. Y's chair, on both of them:

Professor: "Those two are always quarreling."

Mrs. Y: "But I heard he quit school ..." Cut to close-up on Professor Y, as Mrs. Y continues:

"... to join the leftist movement.". Back to the two-shot.

"What? Noge did?"

Mrs. Y: "I'm worried. I think Yukie's taking it very hard."

Cut to Yukie sitting on the steps of the stairway, her head resting in her hands. She looks glum. She hears someone coming. Her face briefly lights up. The shot changes to a longer shot. Itokawa enters the house. We can tell by the very subtle reactions of Setsuko Hara that she is not happy -- she was expecting someone else!

Itokawa: "Are they all here?"

Yukie, her back turned: "They went home." She turns to face him, her back against the front wooden section of the staircase.

Itokawa: "Went home? Do you know what they decided?"

Close on Yukie. She looks uncomfortable. "About what?" Camera still on Yukie.

Itokawa: "Will they quit school to continue the fight?"

Yukie, now, finally, looking at Itokawa: "Father was against it. Absolutely."

Cut to Itokawa. "Thank goodness. Did they accept his judgment?" Pause. "What a relief!" his face showing so. He sits down and wipes his face. Camera remains on him while Yukie says,

"You must be glad that you don't have to become a traitor now."

Music, slightly ominous. The camera stays on Itokawa -- he tenses up. Cut to the previous long shot. He stands up, his back still to Yukie. He walks out the door. Yukie turns and begins to ascend the staircase. Itokawa comes back in.

"I don't care if it makes me a traitor," he begins. "I have good reasons for backing out. You wouldn't understand, but..." He begins to leave again. He pauses. He leaves. Yukie slowly ascends the staircase. Her pace quickens at the very end of the shot.

Cut to a group of students, outside. It is dark outside. They are singing:

"Hundreds of miles from Tokyo/
Kyoto University/
Was caught in fascism's glare/
Freedom and independence/
Were crushed beyond repair/
Yesterday our dreams came to an end"

Fade to black.

Intertitle: "1938"

Dissolve to a large group of soldiers, marching and singing:

"We left our homeland/
Swearing to return victorious/
Death is only acceptable/
Serving our country with distinction/
Whenever the bugles sound the march ..."

The camera now cuts to Yukie, carrying something and eyeing the singing soldiers.

"We remember the sea of flags/
That saw us off ..."

Dissolve to a room filled with women pecking away at typewriters. The camera pans quickly rightward, catching the women typing away until it comes to rest on Yukie, not typing at all, doing some serious daydreaming. The typing teacher's gaze comes to rest on her only just as the image

Dissolves into a view of flowers arranged in pots. The camera pans rightward to reveal a group of young women clustered around small tables with flower arrangements on them.

"It's beautiful," says one. "Miss Yagihara is very talented."

Close on Yukie. She does not look happy. She eyes the flower arrangement. "It's no good." She begins to pull them out of the arrangement.

"Miss Yagihara!"

"Why are you doing that?" asks the girl next to her.

Yukie forces a smile. Kurosawa's filmic geometry: Yukie is in the middle, framed on each side by two other women.

"Our teacher said that in flower arrangement you should express yourself freely. This isn't me." She removes the base of her previous arrangement from the table.

"Then why not make it as you wish?" asks one of the women.

Medium close-up of Yukie on the right and another woman behind her on the left. Yukie holds a few flowers. She begins to tear the petals off the stem. The woman behind her looks around in disbelief. Yukie takes the petals and drops them onto her table (we don't see where they land).

Music. Cut to two other women, looks of disbelief. Cut to a group of four women, similarly bewildered. Cut to a large bowl of water, with the three stemless flowers floating in perfect symmetry, moving slowly on top of the water in a clockwise direction...

Dissolve to Yukie playing the piano, Schumann this time. She interrupts herself and begins to play the loud, descending scales from "The Great Gates of Kiev" (see above) -- but she stops after a moment and turns her back toward the camera. Close on the back of her neck when we hear her mother's voice:

"What's wrong?" Medium shot. Yukie places the cloth on the keys.

"Nothing." Her mother comes closer.

Yukie: "Mother ... I wonder if I should marry Itokawa." But after only a second or two, she smiles and says,

"I was just kidding! Just kidding!" She skips out of the room as her mothers says,

"You know he's coming by tonight?" Cut to Yukie outside the room at the top of the staircase. We hear a baby crying. She stops. She looks down the stairs.

Cut to a close-up of many pairs of sandals. Cut back to Yukie. She moves towards a door with a sign on it: "Entrance." We see her touch the doorknob.

Cut to the inside of that room. We see Professor Yagihara seated at a desk, and seven or eight people sitting on chairs obviously waiting to see him. We also see the source of the baby's cries -- a woman with a baby on her back -- she is pacing the room, trying to calm the child. Sign on the door:

"PLEASE ENTER HERE."

Professor Y: "There you go," he says, handing a piece of paper to an elderly woman.

Woman: "Thank you for all your help," she says, bowing. "Thank you. What's the admission fee?"

"Admission fee?"

Cut to Yukie, smiling broadly, peeking through the door. She closes it. Cut to a sign outside the residence:

"LEGAL ADVICE -- FREE OF CHARGE"

Dissolve to Professor Y, sitting in a chair, looking uncomfortable.

"So what exactly is wrong about the work I'm doing? Why is it wrong to offer free legal advice?"

"I didn't say it's wrong," a voice replies. The camera only now begins a leftward pan to reveal

Itokawa! Mrs. Y is standing next to him. Itokawa continues:

"But you were a key figure in the Kyoto University Incident. You're seen as having an ideological agenda. You must consider the times."

Professor: "So that's your opinion, Prosecutor Itokawa?"

Mrs. Y: "Dear!" To Itokawa: "Please don't be offended." Itokawa, uncomfortably:

"No, I'm the one who went too far."

Cut to Yukie, opening the door.

"Dinner's ready," she says, bowing. Dissolve to dinner table. From left to right we see Yukie, Mrs. Y, Professor Y and Itokawa. The tension is evident. Finally Mrs. Y speaks:

"Mr. Itokawa -- Yukie arranged these flowers. What do you think?"

Itokawa: "I'm no expert, but they look fine to me."

Mrs. Y: "That's rather faint praise." She pauses, glancing at Yukie, then continues:

"She was always a strange little girl." Quick cut to the flowers then to Yukie, as Mrs. Y continues:

"In elementary school she only drew things like airplanes and locomotives." More silence and tension. Eventually, Itokawa speaks:

"By the way, I'll be bringing a special guest by soon. You have a surprise in store!" Cut to Yukie's reaction. Cut to a new POV, Itokawa and Yukie.

"It's Noge," he says and then looks at Yukie.

Yukie's reaction is to pretend she didn't hear him. She looks towards her mother:

"Mother, I'll take those meatballs if you're not eating them." Mrs. Y hands Yukie her plate.

Professor: "Is Noge well?"

Itokawa: "He's changed a lot." He looks at Yukie. Cut to Yukie, looking only at her plate, using a knife to cut her food. Dissolve to (left to right) Mrs. Y, Yukie and Itokawa -- walking Itokawa to the door.

Mrs. Y to Yukie: "Please walk him to the main road." She nods and walks away. Itokawa asks Mrs. Y:

"Where's the professor?"

Mrs. Y: "In his study. Scholars tend to neglect their guests."

Itokawa: "I won't bother him then."

Mrs. Y, in a serious, confidential voice: "Mr. Itokawa, you mentioned bringing Mr. Noge here." Pause. "Is that a good idea?"

Itokawa: "What do you mean?"

Mrs. Y: "I'd like to see him, but I'm afraid." Cut to Yukie, back with a shawl over her shoulders.

Dissolve to outside. They are walking together in a long shot from behind. Cut closer POV directly behind them. He stops, turns and looks at Yukie.

Yukie: "Don't do it. Don't bring Noge here."

Itokawa: "Why not?"

Yukie continues to walk. "I'm ... afraid."

Itokawa: "Of what?"

Yukie: "Of him"

Itokawa: "Why?"

Yukie: "Let's say," she begins, bluntly, "that I married you. My life would be calm and peaceful. Forgive me for saying this, but it would also be a bit boring." [She doesn't mince words, does she?]

Cut to close-up on Itokawa's face. "And with Noge?" Pause.

"If I were to marry him, my life would blaze so brightly, that I might be blinded" Her ultra-serious expression now changes as she laughs and says,

"It's terrifying, but also enticing." Itokawa now laughs -- but his laugh is nearly demonic.

"Noge's a different man now. People change a lot in five years. Look how ladylike you've become." Quick close-up on Yukie, looking confused. Cut back to the two of them.

Itokawa: "Furthermore, Noge spent that time in prison, where time takes on a different meaning." He is laughing again. Cut to Yukie only as she continues to walk forward, looking very serious as Itokawa continues to laugh. A match-dissolve to Yukie's face in a completely different setting -- very beautiful -- but now Noge picks up the laugh.

The camera pulls back to reveal the Yagihara dinner table and roughly left to right: Yukie, Mrs. Y, Itokawa, Noge and the Professor (Mrs. Y and the Professor have their back to the camera).

Noge: "You all look so surprised! I break out into a cold sweat just thinking about those days. But I had a lot of time to study in prison. I read the Japanese classics, and the history of philosophy."

Mrs. Y: "When were you released?"

Noge: "It's been a year now. I was paroled last winter." Cut to a new POV, the Professor speaks:

"But you had to renounce your leftist beliefs to be released, right?" Cut to a close-up of Noge:

"That's right. In my case ... Itokawa used his clout as a prosecutor." He looks uncomfortably to his right, at Itokawa and continues.

" ... He agreed to be my guarantor and found me a job in the army." Reaction shot of Professor Y. Cut to Yukie, sitting stiffly, Itokawa in the middle and Noge, smoking, on the right. Itokawa speaks:

"It seems human beings are weak, after all. I don't blame him, but Noge used to be a much more commanding presence." Noge, looking at Itokawa:

"Did I have a halo around my head?" Cut to a close-up of Yukie, looking very upset.

Cut to a new shot of the five, perfectly framed with Professor and Mrs. Y on the left, Itokawa and Noge on the right with Yukie in the middle. She rises to leave, ignoring her mother:

"Yukie?" ... and closes the door behind her. Noge and the Professor smoke while the four remain silent. Noge glances at his watch at the very end of the shot. Cut to Yukie, in her room, her back to the door.

Cut to her mother coming up the stairs, a bookcase filling the right half of the frame. She turns the doorknob, but the door doesn't open.

"Yukie, what is it? They're leaving." She tries the doorknob again.

"Mr. Noge's leaving for China." Cut to Yukie, still clutching the doorknob with her hands behind her back.

"We won't see him for a long time," her mother says. Yukie turns, but does not open the door.

Music. A wonderful series of quick

Dissolves -- to Yukie, facing camera, her left hand on the doorknob...

Dissolve, her head in her hands, thinking...

Dissolve, her back to the door, arms apart, in psychic pain...

Dissolve, her arms crossed, thinking...

Cut to her mother, still standing outside the door. She appears resolved that Yukie won't be coming out and turns her back to leave, looks back quickly, turns again and starts to move away.

Suddenly the door opens and Yukie flies out and runs quickly down the stairs.

Cut to a POV from behind the three men, as Yukie descends the staircase. The camera moves (beautifully) between Itokawa and Noge and comes to rest on a medium close-up of Yukie, now standing in front of the staircase:

"Please come again," she says politely, bowing...

Dissolve to Itokawa and Noge, walking outside, from behind...

"I shouldn't have come," says Noge. Itokawa only glances up at him, as they continue walking. Cut to Yukie, who is also outside walking (alone), and tearing something with her hands (like the petals from the stem of a flower, as before).

Dissolve to Professor Y in his study, looking at an open book. Mrs. Y enters. She sits on a bench. He looks at her and asks,

"What is it?" but his gaze immediately returns to the book...

Mrs. Y: "Yukie's leaving home."

"What? Leaving home?"

"She's so impulsive. All of a sudden she just ..."

Professor, now paying attention, facing his wife: "What's wrong?"

"... She wants to live on her own in Tokyo. I'll never understand that girl." She rises.

"Did you see her face when she said goodbye to Mr. Noge?"

Professor: "Hmm."

"So it's true after all. I can understand how she feels, but she often does the exact opposite of what she feels. But if she really loves him ..."

"I thought you really wanted her to marry Itokawa?" He reaches for a cigarette. Mrs. Y moves closer. [This entire scene feels like a very realistic conversation between husband and wife.]

Mrs. Y: "But it seems Mr. Noge is willing to mend his ways and take a steady job ..." He strikes a match to light his cigarette.

"... Yukie's already 25."

Professor: "Do you think Noge was sincere about that?"

Mrs. Y, thinking: "He spoke very clearly."

Professor: "I'm not so sure. At any rate, I'm not eager to see them get married." While saying this, he moves from behind his desk and sits on a bench.

Mrs. Y: "Why? You don't think he'll do what he said?" Professor Y ignores his wife's question:

"Where's Yukie?"

"In her room." Professor Y rises and heads towards the door. Mrs. Y follows:

"I was so glad when she started studying flower arranging..."

Professor: "Stay here, will you?" He exits the room.

Cut to Yukie, in another room, hurriedly packing a suitcase. Her father enters.

"So, you're leaving home?"

"Yes." Yukie is frazzled with her packing...

Professor: "Look at you, running around like a homeless person." Close on Yukie. She begins to cry, covering her mouth with her hand. Cut to the two of them.

"Let's sit down and talk," he says. They sit. She cannot even look at her father.

"Are you sure you can support yourself?"

Yukie, shakily: "I studied typing and foreign languages. I can work for a trading company. I can make a decent living."

"You could find a job here in Kyoto. Think of your mother."

This upsets her. She rises and rushes to the window, her back to the camera. She turns to face her father; close-up on her face:

"I'm just so disgusted with everything," she begins through tears. "I want to start my life all over again."

Cut to her father, a resigned expression on his face [the performances of both Setsuko Hara and Denjiro Okochi are amazing in this film, in general, and this scene, in particular!]. The music reinforces all of this.

"Living out in the world isn't as simple as you think," he begins. Cut to Yukie, sniffling.

"I know." Pause. "But right now I feel as if I'm not even living." Another pause. "I want to at least go out in the world, and see for myself what it means to be alive." Cut to her father, who takes a puff from his cigarette. After a long pause:

"If you've thought this through, then go." He seems to be fighting back tears. He rises from his chair.

"Forge your own way through life. It's worth a try." The camera remains close on Professor Y as he walks over to Yukie -- he goes out of focus for a moment. He is now at her right side.

"But remember: You have to take responsibility for your actions." A pause, as the Professor turns his head to look out the window. The camera is filled with the faces of father and daughter.

"Freedom ... is something you have to fight for. There will be difficult sacrifices and the heavy burden of responsibility. Remember that." At this, we hear a muffled cry from outside the room. The camera remains close on father and daughter, as both their heads turn.

Cut to outside the room, mother crying at the door. She shuffles over to the staircase. Fade to black.

Intertitle: "1941"

Beautiful close-up on a bottle entwined with rope, being carried by someone. We see only the back of their legs in close-up at first as we see them walking away from the camera. The man on the left is wearing a western business suit, the man on the right, the one holding the bottle, wears the traditional kimono. Someone speaks:

"Eight years after your resignation, seeing you in a ration line filled me with emotion." The camera finally turns to their faces. We see that it is the Professor on the left (in traditional kimono) and the man in the suit is the one who accompanied Professor Y to his house, earlier in the film...

Professor Y: "My wife caught cold and can't do the shopping."

"I'm sorry."

"It's nothing serious. Ever since our daughter left home, she's done nothing but complain." The man just stares at Professor Y.

Cut to a gorgeous shot of a head-on view of the two walking along. In the background is a house on stilts and in the far background, a mountain. As the men walk out of the frame, right, cut to close on the two men's' faces. The other speaks:

"Is your daughter well? She's in Tokyo, right?"

"She was working for a trading company, but that didn't work out at all. She wants to go to China."

"China?" He looks very serious.

"We're at our wits' end, though I understand how she feels."

Abrupt cut to a busy street scene. An intertitle is superimposed: "Tokyo"

Short cut to what looks like a traffic signal with a building on the right.

Cut to Itokawa, walking along a busy street. He stops.

"Yukie! Is that you?" As he arrives at a storefront window, we see Yukie on the right of the frame. "Fancy meeting you here!"

"Long time no see!" He removes his hat and they bow to each. other. They are in the background, as people continue to pass by in front of them. [a very interesting effect...]

Itokawa: "I'd heard you were living here."

Yukie: "What about you?"

"I was transferred here." He eyes her adoringly. "Do you have plans tonight?"

Yukie, fumbling: "Not really."

"How about dinner? It would be nice to catch up." She pauses. He continues:

"Actually, I'm a married man now." Close on Yukie, surprised. "I'll be a father soon."

They have now switched positions -- she is on the left, he on the right.

Yukie: "Congratulations!" They begin to walk.

"As with everything else, I did it to please my mother." He laughs heartily and puts his hat back on. Yukie is serious.

Dissolve to a table where they are having dinner. Yukie on the left, Itokawa on the right and a view out the window in the center.

"It's been a long time indeed." he says. "Remember that picnic on Mount Yoshida? That was such a long time ago." He takes a drink. Before he sets his glass down, Yukie reaches for the bottle (saké, I presume) to refill his glass. He stops her.

"That's okay. I'll help myself," he says. [My understanding is that it is extremely impolite for a woman not to offer to fill a man's saké cup in that manner. I believe with men only, it is also impolite to take a drink yourself before filling the cup of those around you.]

"We were so young back then, in so many ways." he says, filling his cup. "Don't get me wrong, I'm being sentimental, not sarcastic." Yukie's head is bowed. She manages a smile.

Itokawa reaches for a book on the window sill. He opens it up. Close-up on a page:

"'A PROPOSAL ON THE SINO-JAPANESE PROBLEM' BY RYUKICHI NOGE"

"Have you seen Noge since?" he asks her. Cut to Yukie, her head bowed, silent.

"He's in Tokyo now." She blinks, trying not to let her expressions betray her.

"It seems you didn't know." He sets the book down. "He's running the 'Research Center for East Asian Politics and Economy.' He's working very actively. He's a real authority on China now ..." He takes a bite of his food.

" ... Political and business leaders rely on his opinion ..." He pours himself some more saké.

" ... Just shows you can't judge a book by its cover ..." He smiles.

"You were wise not to marry him. But he certainly does lead a fascinating life ..." He gives Yukie a look.

"He's treading a fine line." He takes another sip. Cut to a close-up on Yukie. Close on Itokawa. He begins to laugh that demonic laugh again.

Cut to the initial side shot of this scene, the gritty lights of Tokyo in the center of the frame, with Yukie and Itokawa at left and right, respectively. He continues to laugh.

"The three of us used to go to movies and have heated debates, but I was always the third wheel." He pours another drink.

"Please..." he motions for her to eat. As the scene fades to black, it appears she is about to do so, as he throws back some more saké...Fade to black.

Part Two

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