Monday, February 18, 2008

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

A detailed analysis of the above film. Part Two.

Up on a room somewhere, obviously still in Tokyo (buildings in the background). Three workers are tying up packages of papers. A young boy enters the room and walks past the workers to another table. He bows.

"You have a visitor. They didn't give a name."

Cut to Noge, a pipe in his mouth. His look turns serious. (He probably thinks he's about to be busted by the secret police.)

"It's a lady," the boy says, scratching his head. Cut to Noge, who gives the kid a playful nudge. Cut to the kid, still scratching. Cut to Noge, walking out to see who is there. He looks around, opens the doors and sees no one.

"Hey, where's that visitor?" he yells back into the office.

The following scene is beautifully described by DR on p. 41. I will make my own attempt at describing this wonderful Kurosawa technique of telescoping time in such a unique way (i.e., the horizontal wipes at the beginning of The Men Who Tread..., etc.) --

Cut to a staircase and a pair of feet, then legs, running down and out into the street. Not until she is out the door do we see all of Yukie. She pauses, looking up at the writing on the window. She crosses the street, looking back at the office.

Dissolve to the same scene -- it is raining. Although her face is covered by an umbrella, Yukie crosses the street back to the office. She walks by the doors, looking at the building carefully.

A rough dissolve to the same scene -- now it is autumn, the wind is blowing the leaves around, and Yukie appears frame left in a beautiful kimono, still staring up at the office -- she walks on by, pauses at frame right, looking up again, and then walks off...

Dissolve to Yukie, now in western-style clothes. She is now lingering by the building, continuously looking up at the office. She moves to the left and then back to the right. She is stopped at the railing in front of the building. Suddenly Noge appears behind her. He takes off his hat and appears at her side, but she does not even look at him!

Dissolve to an office. Noge is opening the doors overlooking the city and Yukie is looking at him. All shot from behind. Noge turns to face her. Cut to a closer angle.

"Your parents let you leave just like that?" Pause. "When was that?"

"When did I leave home?" She begins to walk towards him. "That day you came to visit."

Close on Noge. He looks shocked. "That day?"

Close on her, smiling. Cut to Yukie, close, on the left, and Noge on the right, slightly out of focus in the background.

"It's been three years. I've changed jobs three times since then. They were never more than a way to put food on the table. I want something ... I can throw myself into ... body and soul. That's the kind of work I want. When I left home, my father told me I'd have to bear responsibilities and make sacrifices in the struggle for freedom. That's what I -- that's the kind of work I want."

The angle now reverses, with Noge on the right, but in the foreground.

"That won't be easy. Who finds work like that even once in their lives?"

Cut to close-up on Yukie, as Noge speaks:

"It's like finding the Bluebird of Happiness."

Cut to a window, Noge walks over and the camera is behind him. Cut to Yukie. Long shot of her looking at him, looking forlorn.

Cut back to Noge staring out the window, still from behind. But Yukie's voice is heard:

"Mr. Noge..." He turns his head towards her. Cut to Yukie in profile. Cut back to Noge, his attention on Yukie. Cut back to Yukie's profile...she begins to leave the frame right. Cut to a POV behind Noge, Yukie coming towards him. She walks up to him:

"You're keeping a secret, aren't you? Tell me. I want to know." Cut to opposite POV behind Yukie. Noge is disturbed.

"I'm sure it's something wonderful..."

"What's wrong with you? Don't start imagining things." Yukie rushes towards him.

"Please, don't be so cruel." She turns and faces the camera, we now see them both.

"I used to be ... so thoughtless, making a joke out of everything." Long pause. "But now..."

Cut to a medium shot of the two of them just standing there silently. Noge is fumbling with his jacket from time to time, but I count 49 seconds from the start of this scene to Yukie's next words...

After about 32 of these seconds, Noge moves towards a desk and turns on a desk lamp.

Silence. We see it begin in this medium shot, but suddenly are given an extreme close-up of Yukie's purse which, apparently in her stunned state, has dropped from her previous grip and is now hanging tenuously between her thumb and one finger. Cut to Yukie.

"I'm such a fool," come the first words in nearly a minute. "Here I am suddenly demanding secrets. Shameless, aren't I?" Noge turns and looks at her. "Forget I ever asked. But there is one thing that worries me." She is moving around the room, her back to the camera.

" ... It's Mr. Itokawa ... "

"Itokawa?"

"Perhaps I'm imagining things again ... but I wonder if you should be working here in this office."

"What do you mean?"

"If you don't know than I guess it's okay." New POV behind Noge who has moved over to her position.

"I see," he begins. "I'm not sure what you're implying, but here's how I see things: Even if a man were doing something here that might provoke the authorities ... going underground wouldn't help. They wouldn't be stupid enough to lose track of him." Noge is now facing the wall, standing next to her, looking straight ahead.

"Then what should that man do?"

We see only Noge's shadow as he speaks, brilliantly silhouetted against the wall next to Yukie. She is carrying on this conversation with a ghost. Kurosawa's symbolism here is beautifully subtle and graceful.

"Nothing in particular. He could be arrested the next hour or the next day, but until then, he'll calmly keep doing whatever he can." Yukie finally turns to look at him, and the shadow is seen to have pushed his glasses up his nose. Cut to a long shot. She rushes out of the office. Noge turns his head but does not move. Finally, he reacts.

"Yukie," he shouts, running out after her. Cut to the hallway. He bumps into her. She drops her purse (close-up of purse on the floor). We hear Yukie crying. We see Noge's shoes as he stands next to the purse. He bends down to pick it up.

Close on Noge, first from behind, and then from profile. He puts his hand on Yukie's left shoulder.

"I was afraid this would happen. The path before us is so steep." At this, Yukie turns and faces him, the tears running down her face.

"It's all right. I don't mind." Fade to black.

Up on Yukie, standing in a hallway. Noge comes out of a doorway. She is smiling. He is not.

"I thought I told you not to come here."

"I had to. After all ... who knows how many hours or minutes we have left to be together?"

Dissolve to a close-up on a razor. A pair of scissors is dropped next to the razor...

Cut to Noge's reaction: "What's wrong?"

Cut to close-up of Yukie crying. Now a medium shot, she is looking at Noge, kimono material in her hands. She rises to walk over to him -- the camera shoots her from leg angle (showing her dragging the kimono material along with her)...

"I'm making you a kimono ..." (still leg level) " ... you might never get to wear," she says, crying. She is now at his side and he simply looks at her, and moves his hand, as if to touch her (but he does not).

Dissolve to a smiling Yukie:

"Welcome home." She seems to be taking his briefcase -- he puts his (western-style) hat on her head (she looks great!) and she laughs.

Music. Three quick cuts of flowers in various vases. The fourth cut is a close-up on some flowers in a glass, with what must be a 40's coffee-maker and a teapot on a table. The camera pulls back to reveal Noge looking at his mail and Yukie adjusting the flame on the coffee-maker.

"Did you write to your father?" Noge asks her. She nods in the negative.

"Why not?" he asks.

Close on Yukie. "What should I write? That we have a happy life together?"

Close on Noge. "I owe him better. I owe your mother better, and you too."

Yukie comes around and puts her arms around her husband from behind.

"What do you mean? 'No regrets in my life' -- isn't that our motto?" She looks down.

" ... It may be hard ... but my life now feels more meaningful than ever." Her arms still around his neck, she wipes a tear away with one hand.

"It's just hard to express that in a letter." He turns his head towards her, but she gets up and quickly moves over to a table, her back turned to him. She is looking out the window.

"Look at the clouds." He joins her at the window. "Do you remember?" Noge smiles.

"Our picnic on Mt. Yoshida? We were so young." He begins to whistle the Kyoto University song -- she quotes the lyric:

"'Defend academic freedom.'" He continues to whistle. Dissolve to the couple, now, actually there at their old picnic-grounds. He continues to whistle the song; she hums along. The camera begins with a side shot, through the grass (oh how Kurosawa loved that shot) and then gracefully, the camera begins to move in front of the couple. Noge picks up a small bug.

Yukie: "What is it?"

"A tiny bug." Cut to an ECU on the couple. She's looking at the bug in his hand.

"It's so beautiful," he says looking at it, as the camera moves left to his face. "The pattern of the dots is really exquisite." He moves his hand slightly closer to his face to look at the bug. Suddenly we see an arm swoop into the picture and hit Noge's hand. Noge looks up at her. Cut to close-up of Yukie. Back to Noge. Back to Yukie. She begins to cry, putting her hands over her face. She runs...

Beautiful dissolve to the inside of a movie theater. The camera pans gently leftward as we see the faces of many smiling, laughing, mostly young people. The camera comes to rest on Yukie and Noge. Noge, on the right, is obviously enjoying the movie, laughing along with the others. Yukie is not. She is staring at Noge. He sees that she is unhappy. He gently takes her hand and puts it in his -- and his attention returns to the movie (don't you love movies within movies? -- Juzo Itami pulls this off beautifully in Tampopo!) -- he cannot help himself, he is laughing. Yukie, on the other hand, now simply stares at the screen, obviously unhappily...

Another dissolve to a much happier Noge and Yukie, by a window in a room.

"I just finished a big project," he says with obvious satisfaction. He places his hands on her shoulders and begins to back her up. She places her hands on his arms. "Aren't you happy for me?," he continues. "Let's have a big celebration."

"Good idea." she replies somewhat sadly: "I don't know what the project was, but I'm happy." He looks at her, she at him. He hugs her and twirls her around.

"That's my girl!," he says. But her expression again turns sad. She moves away -- he puts his hands on her arms again. "You didn't know, and you didn't ask either," he begins. "You just take care of me without complaint." He is now semi-pushing her towards the camera. When Yukie is in frame left, he spins her around and hands still on her shoulder, now close on Yukie, POV behind Noge's left shoulder.

"Thank you," he says lovingly. Her head is bowed. She raises it to meet his gaze.

Reverse POV from over her right shoulder looking at Noge. "In ten years, the true story behind our work will be known. The Japanese people will thank us for what we've done. You understand, don't you?"

Reverse POV again. She finally smiles.

"Good!" he says as he again picks her up and spins her around.

"Ouch!" She has been pricked by something in his pocket.

"What is it?"

"What's this?" she asks him, feeling his coat pocket where she was jabbed.

"This? That's my weak spot," and he sinks down to the floor.

"Your weak spot?" joining him on the floor. Piano music, but not Mussorgsky or Schumann -- a simpler sound, representing Noge's peasant parents.

"The thing that weighs most on my heart," he continues.

"Something I shouldn't know about?"

"No, you have a right to know about this," and he pulls something out of his pocket. He shows it to her. "My father and mother." We then see a close-up of the photograph. A pause as they continue to look at the photograph. "I haven't seen them in ten years. I can't bring myself to see them. I fear his scolding, just as I did as a kid." Yukie raises her head from the photograph to her husband's face. He continues.

" ... I'm afraid of my mother's tears. My poor parents!" and he puts the photograph down. "Damn it. I know that, in theory, by addressing larger social issues, I'm also addressing my problems with my parents ..." Yukie has picked up the photograph and is looking at it now. " ... And yet -- no regrets in my life. No regrets whatsoever."

"I have to step out for a while," he says suddenly. Cut to close-up of Yukie, knowing the truth, trying to maintain a brave face. Her eyes follow his movements.

"What about dinner?" she calls out.

"I'll be back, of course," he says -- but he is now facing the door, not looking at her. She approaches. He turns around. "I'll bring a little reward for your efforts."

"Then I'll make a special dinner to celebrate," she says.

"I'll be back soon," he says, smiling as he closes the door. Cut to Yukie, smiling. Her smile quickly melts away and her eyes return to the photograph.

Dissolve to Noge descending the staircase a restaurant/nightclub. South American dance music is blaring. He has a package in his hands. He moves quickly to a table. He looks around. He looks at his watch. He sits down (notice the man behind him, reading a newspaper. Look carefully -- you can see that he is eyeing Noge!), turns the package over several times and places it on the table. He grabs a menu. A waiter is at his side. Noge looks up. This is no ordinary waiter. Noge tries to escape, but is quickly tackled and taken down by several people, including the guy who was reading the newspaper. Chairs fly and bar patrons are flung about. Cut to close-up reaction shots of the various groups of customers and staff. Close-up on Noge's broken glasses. Close-up on the package on the table. A man walks over and picks it up and begins to rip off the wrapping. It is the Police Commissioner "Poison Strawberry" Dokuichigo (Takashi Shimura). He finally has the package open. It is a woman's purse. He eyes it. The music stops...

Cut to Yukie, arranging flowers on the table. She has heard someone at the door, and rises, smiling, expecting to see her husband.

"Welcome back ..." Her smile turns cold and we change POV to behind her to see several policemen entering the room. Cut to a shot of the dinner table, a cloth covering the dishes. More police enter. A shot of her back...

Cut to a front shot, but she has a placard of some sort pinned to her clothes.

Cut to a profile, obviously mug shots.

Cut to the inspector (a fantastic performance by Takashi Shimura), western style shirt and tie, sitting, holding a toothpick. He picks up a fan and begins to fan himself as the camera pulls back to reveal another policeman and Yukie, and yet another policeman. Medium close on the last three.

The man on the left says: "If you want to go home soon, tell us the truth."

The other man yawns. "We already have plenty of evidence." The camera moves right to the inspector. He spits.

"How long have you been with Noge?" Cut to a side-view of the two policemen and Yukie in the middle. She is silent. Back to the inspector. "How long have you been lovers?"

"Speak up! Talk!" says cop #2. He slaps her. Close-up on Yukie from the front. She remains silent, looking haggard. Cut to the inspector:

"Think it over carefully. You have plenty of time." Cut to Yukie, her head bowed.

Dissolve to a pair of legs, walking along in front of a series of jail cells. The camera dollies along and stops at Yukie, sitting in a cell. The guard turns left and moves out of the frame.

Very slow dissolve to a pendulum swinging. Beautiful double-exposure of pendulum and Yukie. The pendulum disappears, leaving Yukie. The guard returns, and this time the camera dollies along with him to the LEFT...

Dissolve to Yukie, looking even more ragged and beaten. The camera pulls back to reveal the inspector and policemen again. Cop #2 is sitting with his head tilted back, wilted from the heat. The inspector pours himself a cup of tea. He drinks.

"Damn it! You're so stubborn as Noge. Want to see him?" Close-up on Yukie. She allows her eyes to meet the inspector's. He puts his cigarette down.

"The thing is ... he was plotting to sabotage the war effort.." He picks up his cigarette and it hangs from the side of his mouth as he says: "There's no hope of seeing him now. Punishment for spies has always been"

And here the inspector puts his hand at his throat and looks at Yukie. Cut to an ECU of inspector.

"He worked very hard," he continues. "But it was all in vain." He continues to smoke, a little glistening on his lower lip. He pauses and stares a hard stare at Yukie.

"Want to hear some good news?" In both close and long shot, we see the inspector rising from his chair, and walking towards the door. He opens the door and exits. We know he has turned a radio on -- we hear music playing. And then a voice:

"Special news bulletin! On December 8, Imperial Headquarters announced [cop #2 stands up...] that Imperial Japanese forces commenced combat operations against American and British forces in the western Pacific." [Cop #1 also stands up and moves to the other side of the table..]. The radio music continues. Cop #1 begins to light a cigarette. ECU on calendar page:

"DECEMBER 8, 1941."

A brief note on Hattori's score here. It is put to beautiful, but sparse, effect here. First, the radio music continues to play until the cut described below (1) -- Hattori's music begins towards the very end of the below-described cut, and after the musical accompaniment to her fall, the music turns somber and reaches a minor cadence about 10 seconds later and stops. The music begins again here (2) -- this time the Kyoto University song is incorporated, as Yukie remembers her past. This music also ends quickly. It is all very simple, but very lovely.

The camera is placed towards the bottom of a staircase. It is looking up towards a window, which frames a bright light. A policeman, a half-dead Yukie, and the other policeman enter the frame, one by one. Yukie descends one step. Then two. Policeman #1 stops and turns around to look up at Yukie.

(1) Close-up on Yukie. Slightly out of focus. Yukie begins to weave and lose consciousness. Dramatic music. And now some rapid-fire, modern cutting:

In the last frame [these are all "VCR" frames] of the close-up, Yukie is losing consciousness and falling towards the camera. In the last three frames of this shot, she has already fallen and only the policeman in the background remains in the frame...

There are five (5) frames in the next cut. The camera zooms down the staircase (there are no people in these cuts). The final two frames are actually the same.

In the next cut, there are also five (5) frames, same as above, the last two are the same. The difference in these two cuts is very subtle -- here he seems to "narrow" the staircase.

In the final cut, there are five (5) more frames (!) -- this cut is just the bottom step of the staircase.

All three of these cuts together last much less than one second!

The next cut begins back at the top of the stairs with a shot of the policemen. The shot pans down to the limp body of Yukie.

Dissolve to the next shot which again shows a window pane filled with light. But this is not the one from the staircase -- this one comes from Yukie's cell. The camera pans down to Yukie, shot from the outside of her cell (through the bars -- an AK "theme")...

Now inside, close on her face -- someone is putting something on her forehead. Yukie, saint-like, stares simply into the light coming in from the window.

(2) Close-up on the window, with its geometric bars. Quick cut to a shot of clouds.
Yukie and the other students running up the forest path; Dissolve back to Yukie, in her cell, but shot from outside behind the bars. A voice:

"Yukie Yagihara, out!" She looks up. Whoever was nursing her removes the cloth from her head. Yukie begins to get up. Dissolve to Yukie, coming up to the bars at the gate of the jail. As the gate is opened and she is coming out, the camera begins to pull back to reveal a guard on the right and a man with his back to us on the left.

"Yukie," he says as she comes out. It is her father.

Dissolve to the misty images of the view from the train window. The camera pulls back to reveal Professor Y and Yukie -- and eventually many other passengers, as well. Her father is sleeping, but Yukie is awake, staring out the window. She suddenly breaks out crying [and Hattori's "tragic" music begins again], covering her head with her hands. Her father extends his arm to comfort her. Dissolve to newspaper headline:

"PLOT TO SABOTAGE WAR EFFORT/SPIES ARRESTED/RINGLEADER: RYUKICHI NOGE."

Cut to Professor Yagihara on a train, reading a paper. Dissolve to a sign:

"TOKYO DISTRICT PUBLIC PROSECUTOR."

Cut to an office [Hattori's music comes to a minor cadence]. Yagihara stands at a large, tall window. The door opens and Itokawa enters the room. They bow to each other. Yagihara speaks:

"Thank you for all you've done. My wife sends her thanks too."

"I'm afraid it wasn't much." He bows again to Yagihara...

"Itokawa, I've come from Kyoto, because I'd like to defend Noge."

Close on Itokawa. A look of surprise. "Defend him?" Close on Yagihara. He pulls a newspaper out of his pocket.

"What it says here about the case isn't what you told me the other day. Why are Noge's actions considered espionage?" He looks directly at his former student. Close on Itokawa, looking mortified. He is silent. Cut to Yagihara.

"Itokawa. In the ten years ... since I left the university, what have I accomplished? Sometimes a child can show us the way. Noge taught me ..." Cut to Itokawa, upset.

"Professor!" Back to Yagihara:

" ... No, I'm going to do it. I may be old ..." Back to Itokawa.

"Professor!" Back to Yagihara.

" ... I'm determined to represent him." Back to Itokawa. He is stunned and speechless. He bows his head and slumps to his chair. Finally,

"Professor ... Noge died last night in his cell." Cut to close-up on Yagihara, his eyes open wide, looking both startled and enraged, as a melancholy and ominous score cue begins.

Dissolve to an empty room in the Yagihara residence. Yukie quickly fills the frame as she rises. Her face betrays that she knows of Noge's death. She turns and walks blankly towards the door, leaving the frame empty, just as the shot began...

Cut to a long hallway -- we see her sideways down the hall coming out of the room. Her father is calling after her. She turns down the hallway and walks towards the camera. She pauses in the middle of the hall. Her father is behind her calling her. She ignores him. She, and then he, run past the camera into another room at frame left. Cut to another room. Yukie comes running in. Her father then enters.

"Yukie..." Again, she runs off. Her father follows. This scene is repeated once again in yet another room. Her father tries to grab her.

"Yukie, listen to me. Yukie!" Again, he tries to grab her at the bottom of the staircase.
Again, she escapes his grasp and runs away up the stairs.

"Don't say anything!" she yells. Mrs. Yagihara is visible in the background. Her father runs up the staircase as well.

"But Yukie!" Cut to the study door at the top of the staircase. Yukie is crying, her head in her hands even as she runs up the stairs. Cut to the study. She enters and he follows. She is slumped down over a chair, crying. He is winded, out of breath.

"Fool!" he shouts. He slowly sits down himself, still winded but his voice crackling with emotion.

"You were Noge's wife. Just think of everything he accomplished. He struggled and risked his life to save Japan from war. You were his companion on that path. You should be proud!" His voice cracks at this last part. Close-up on Yagihara, blinking. Cut to Yukie, sobbing even more than before. Back to her father; back to her. Cut to Mrs. Yagihara, standing in the doorway, holding a package (Noge's ashes). Cut back to the long shot.

"When you left home ... weren't you ready to face hardship?" Close on Yukie. She lifts up her head a little. Her father continues to speak while the camera remains on her face.

"You knew there'd be sacrifices in the struggle for freedom." She gets up (we see this in close up and a more medium shot, as is often the case with movement in AK's films), and she leaves the frame...her father's eyes follow her and we see his alarm.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to see his parents." She has grabbed a suitcase and is packing (again).

"His parents?"

Mrs. Y: "But Yukie!" She's grabbing clothes from a closet.

"They're old and they live alone."

"But they didn't even come ... to claim his remains," pleads her mother, as she looks down at the box of ashes.

"I know. That's why I have to go see them," she says as she continues to pack her suitcase.

Mrs. Y (tearfully): "You can't..."

Professor Y: "Calm down, Yukie."

Yukie: "I'm his wife." Fade to black. The music ends.

Up on a pile of dirt, the view of a shovel at work, and the grunts of someone digging. The camera pans right until we see it is a woman, who says:

"How could this happen? It's awful." We see that it is the woman in the photograph -- Noge's mother (Haruko Sugimura).

"People dig graves for dogs at night..." She continues digging. The camera continues its gentle rightward pan -- we see a lantern by the side of the grave, lighting up the scene -- and finally we see someone's feet at the edge of the grave. Noge's mother continues:

"That ungrateful son of ours. He did such atrocious things, that we can't even show our faces in public." The camera pans up. We see Yukie, holding the package. The camera stays on Yukie as Noge's mothers sighs.

"That's deep enough. Give it here." Yukie looks at the package and then hands it to her mother-in-law. We again hear the peasant piano music from earlier in the film. Noge's mother is looking over the package.

"So this is the pitiful state you come back in. All right then. Just wait here a spell," she says, crying, as she carefully sets the box down in the grave. She removes the shovel and steps out of the grave.

A beautiful shot: Noge's mother on the left, the grave at center frame, and Yukie on the right. But the women take up only a third of the frame. Above them are massive clouds, the darker ones hiding the moon.

"We'll be joining you soon." She takes a few fistfuls of dirt and throws them in the grave. Dissolve to Noge's mother and Yukie walking back. Her mother-in-law is shuffling along, shovel in hand.

"My husband boarded up the doors and windows. We have to work after dark, like owls." Close-up on graffiti, scribbled on the house:

"SPIES LIVE HERE." Cut to another section of graffiti.

"SPIES LIVE HERE." Cut to a scene of papers scattered about; a rake covered with dust and webbing; a large hold in a wall. Cut to Noge's father (Kokuten Kodo) sitting on the floor, staring blankly at nothing.

Next we cut to a close up of a chicken, followed by an extreme ECU of the chicken. I don't know what to make of these cuts. I must be missing something.

Cut to the father again in close-up. We hear Yukie's voice:

"Please let me stay here." The camera pulls back to show Yukie and Noge's mother. They make up the left and right side of the frame, respectively, while the mute father sits in the middle....

"I'll do anything. Anything!"

Noge's mother: "You don't have to."

"I want to!"

"Listen to me. Our way of life is completely different from yours."

"But can't I learn? I'll do whatever you teach me to do." She turns to the father: "Please let me try."

Noge's mother: "...But..."

" ... I'm ready ..."

"But that isn't all. There are other things to worry about. Do you know what the villagers call us? A family of spies. Spies!" At precisely that moment, there is a banging and the noise of kids yelling. Close on Noge's mother; then on the father, his eyes filled with tears.

On Yukie. The yelling stops and music begins. Medium shot, the father now on the left, Yukie in the middle, the mother on the right.

"I beg of you, let me stay." Silence. At length, she continues: "I was his wife. Please!" Still no response from anyone.

"I won't go home," she whimpers. "I won't!" Close-up of Yukie, crying, her hands out and head bowed in the traditional Japanese posture of submission...

Dissolve to two large rakes. [During this dissolve, Yukie's head disappears right between the handles of the two rakes -- a beautiful effect!]

We see someone pick up the one on the left, and then Yukie, less assured, picks up the rake on the right. Noge's mother eyes her, and they leave the barn.

Cut to the father, sitting silently.

Cut to outside -- the full moon is huge, and takes up the entire top center of the frame...
What follows is a beautiful composition on film. There are three main components to this composition -- the ground, usually with the rake embedded in it, Yukie's face, in close-up, and the mother, shot from below. After I describe each of these for the first time, I will use a shorthand to refer to them, because of the large number of times they are used here...

Cut to the ground. We see a rake land, then a close-up -- from below -- of the mother, her face contorted and labored, bringing the rake down again. As the camera pulls up from the ground this time, we see Yukie, standing at the edge of the field in which Noge's mother is working...

To Yukie

the ground

the mother

the ground

Yukie

the ground

the mother

Yukie

mother

the ground [Mother: "Rotten, ungrateful son!"]

Yukie [suddenly upset at hearing what her mother-in-law called her beloved husband! and all in Setsuko Hara's eyes!]

the ground

mother

Yukie [Mother: "That rotten boy!."]

mother

Yukie

Close up of Yukie's rake on the ground. Yukie has picked it up. Close on Yukie, as she leaves the frame

close-up on her feet

close on the mother

back to the ground, showing her shoes have been taken off (is she "throwing off the getas" as in Sanshiro I?) [See commentary there.]

back to the mother, and now, still shot from below, we see that Yukie has joined her mother-in-law in the field. Close-up of Yukie. Shot from behind seeing her bring the rake down. Close on the ground where the rake lands. Close on her face -- she is struggling mightily just to loosen the rake from the earth so she can pick it up again! She finally does it. Her mother-in-law looks at her, faintly bemused.

They both continue to work. Yukie gets better with each try. The camera follows her efforts from leg level, as it also follows her rightward movement across the field.

Long dissolve/double exposure of her working and also standing up, her shirt drenched in sweat, and wiping her brow. She looks in pain over at her mother-in-law who is not slowing down at all. Back on Yukie, working, mother, Yukie. An internal narrative voice speaks.

"I was Noge's wife. I was Noge's wife." She continues working. Close-up -- she is looking at her hands. She blows on her blisters. Dissolve to her feet -- the camera pans up. She is drinking from a cup which she refills with a pot. Her shirt is covered with dirt and sweat.

Dissolve to her wrapping something around the blisters on her hands. Dissolve to her putting her hair up to get it out of the way. She actually smiles here.

Dissolve to medium shot of her working. Dissolve to another shot. It is a different day. She is wearing a different outfit, more suitable for the work...

Dissolve to yet another outfit (another day). Dissolve to yet another. Dissolve to a shot taken from below. She is now drinking right out of the spout of the pot. Medium close and then close shots follow. Fade to black. [Can you appreciate Kurosawa's love of silent film from the above scene?]

Someone is cutting off the ropes which hold together the large x-shaped timbers which block a large door. The timbers are removed, and the smaller pieces of wood pulled off. The camera pulls back to reveal a new-look Yukie doing all this. She is dressed in true peasant garb now. Yukie's mother-in-law opens the door from the other side.

"What are you doing? My husband ..." Yukie does not answer. She throws down a board and picks up her rake.

"Where are you going?" her mother-in-law asks again. Yukie still does not answer, she just walks away. Her mother-in-law calls after her:

"We're night owls. If you go out in the day, they'll cause you grief! Yukie, wait!"

Now a close-up of Yukie, her rake over her shoulder. She looks like a completely different person from the Yukie we have gotten to know up to now. She is filled with confidence.
Her attention is diverted by the sound of children whispering loudly.

"Spy, spy, spy, spy..."

The camera begins a swift leftward pan or dolly briefly showing the faces of the children...
Yukie quickens her pace. Dissolve to children running toward the camera. Dissolve to Yukie from behind, walking quickly. Dissolve to children running; to Yukie; to children and back to Yukie. She stops for a moment.

Another dissolve to the children, running. Another dissolve to a close-up of Yukie. She is not the whimpering, crying Yukie of before, however. Although we can tell she is hurt by their taunts, her face reveals a firm resolution. She continues walking, the camera right behind her back.

The camera now alternates between shots of people gathering at the side of the road to look at the "spy" and close-ups of Yukie, her face determined. Everyone is staring at her. As she walks down the path, the camera pulls back and people gather to watch her until we cannot see her anymore.

Cut to Yukie, her basket now filled with straw, loading her down. She is walking with great effort. Cut to a shot of other feet, moving swiftly along. Cut back to Yukie, struggling along. Cut to children watching from the side of the road. Cut to Yukie, struggling. Cut to a child, alone. Its mother comes and fearfully grabs it from harm's way...

Another close-up, from the side, of Yukie struggling...a man on a bicycle, stopping, staring, blowing his nose...

Dissolve to a pair of workers, staring; one of them spits. Dissolve to a woman, staring -- a heavy sneer on her lips. Dissolve to two older women, gossiping. Dissolve to a man in a cap. Dissolve to another man. Dissolve to Yukie again. She stumbles and falls under the weight of the load.

Cut to unseen laughter coming from behind the trees. Cut to a close-up of Yukie, on the ground, struggling to get up. She cannot, despite the attempt. More laughter from the trees...Again she tries to get up -- again she fails -- again laughter, this time from behind the tall grass...

An ECU on Yukie's face. She is sweating, unable to get up. She seems defeated. Suddenly she rises, but as the camera pulls back, we see she had help. Her mother-in-law has helped her up. Close-up on the mother-in-law as she takes the load and straps it to her shoulders. Yukie looks on.

"Mother!" she cries...

Cut to a frontal view of the mother, the heavy load of straw on her back, Yukie behind her. The mother wipes away a tear and begins to walk -- the camera follows her...

Dissolve to a rice paddy where the two women are stomping around in the mud.
A long series of exchanging cuts, all very close and panned upwards on the women working away in silence. Hattori's music resumes. Yukie wipes sweat from her forehead. She rests for a moment.

"What wrong?" asks her mother-in-law. Yukie just shrugs, and they both return to the back-breaking work Dissolve to a slightly different camera angle. Suddenly we hear Noge's voice, in a whisper:

"No regrets in my life..." Yukie pauses from the work. "No regrets whatsoever..."

Yukie returns to work. Dissolve to an ECU of both women, Yukie close on the right. Now we hear her father's voice:

"Remember that there'll be sacrifices in the struggle for freedom." Dissolve to a new angle, with bright sky filling the frame. Yukie works with determination. Again we hear Noge's voice:

"In ten years, the true story behind our work will be known. The Japanese people will thank us for what we've done." Dissolve to another angle, still close.

"You understand, don't you? No regrets in my life. No regrets whatsoever." Again, she pauses from her work, but only briefly. The music swells. Yet another dissolve, to a head-on angle, still very close. Dissolve to an overhead shot of the women preparing the paddy.

Dissolve to a new overhead shot -- the women are walking through the paddy together,
now with large protective hats on. Dissolve to a medium-high shot of them using rakes in the paddy. Dissolve to close-up of the paddy. Dissolve to mother, back in their home, walking stiffly.

"Yukie! Time to get up. We're planting the rice today." She stops. "What's wrong!" The camera swings over to Yukie. She is bent over. "Don't overdo it. Do you feel ill?"

"No, I'm fine," she says, pulling herself to her feet. She shuffles out of the picture, leaving her mother-in-law staring after her.

She enters the room and assumes the submission position by her father-in-law, and bows.

"Good morning." The camera remains fixed on the father, but we know she is leaving the room, because his head follows her. Close-up on her sandals, she is putting them on. She sits. The camera pans up to show her exhausted, wretched face. Dissolve to a close-up of a combine, or similar farm implement. The women are moving it along. Dissolve to the women, planting rice in its tracks. Dissolve to another, closer shot of them, bundles of rice in their hands. They are carefully stepping backwards as they plant.

Dissolve to a side view, medium shot of the same. Dissolve to a close-up of Yukie. She coughs. Her mother-in-law looks at her with concern. Dissolve to more fast-paced rice planting. The women bump into each other. Mother laughs. Yukie raises her upper lip, but otherwise retains her stern expression and wipes her forehead.

Dissolve to close-up on a fire. Cut to an overhead shot of the women, warming themselves by the fire. Yukie coughs several times. Her mother-in-law feels her forehead with the back of her hand.

"Hey, you have a fever. That's not from the fire." Yukie responds to this by getting up and going back to work. Close on mother, looking worried. Cut to Yukie, planting rice, medium shot -- cut to close shot -- Dissolve to close-up on rice plants; close-up on Yukie's face.

Dissolve to Yukie, rising from her work, wiping her forehead and we hear her saying to herself (three times):

"I'm all right." This dissolve is repeated twice more -- each time Yukie looks slightly different -- Another dissolve. She is planting away and looks likes she might fall over at any moment. Another dissolve, still planting, in a windy rain. Yet another dissolve, still planting, she takes a step backwards. Dissolve to another overhead shot, her back bent, wide hat on, planting rice -- it appears she is going to fall over -- and finally she slumps down by the corner of the paddy.

Cut to a close-up. The exhaustion has overtaken her. Suddenly we hear laughter from the mother. Yukie turns her head to see. Cut to a close-up of the mother, laughing and smiling. She is surveying their work.

Cut to an extremely long overhead shot, showing what looks like acres and acres of rice paddies, divided by the berms we saw previously from a closer angle (the overall perspective here is obtained by some trees in the far background). If the women planted even one section of what is shown, it would still be a remarkable feat of human effort.

Close on Yukie, but it is mother's voice:

"Look at that! We finished the whole field."

Finally, Yukie begins to smile -- but then her eyes close, and she falls over.

"Yukie," cries mother, as she runs down the berm. Dissolve to mother, carrying a bowl, shuffling her tired body through the room. She addresses her mute husband.

"What's wrong with you? Don't just sit there without a word. At least say hello to her. Ask if she's tired. Tell her she did a good job." The camera stops on father. "Just say something! She works so hard." Cut back to the mother.

"Really, now. You won't find a better daughter-in-law in all the world. She's a great woman. There's no better bride in the world. She's a great woman. Why'd you think she was out to trick us? Ryukichi.... She stops. She begins to cry. " ... Ryukichi was really --" Cut to an ECU of father, his eyes closed in pain. Fade to black.

Up on Yukie, sleeping. We hear mother, rushing by outside.

"This is awful..." She is crying. She opens the doors, comes into the room, sobbing. Father remains silent. Quick close-up on him, his eyes fixed upon his weeping wife. Back to her, still sobbing.

"Who did it?" she cries. "Who would destroy our rice paddies? How could any farmer do that? What kind of farmer would destroy rice paddies?" We hear a sound. Mother suddenly rises, is looking in Yukie's direction.

"Yukie! Where are you going?" As she chases Yukie, the camera comes to rest on father, his eyes now open, looking serious. But we still hear mother's voice:

"You're not feeling well! Where are you going?" At the tail end of this shot, we see father's lips quivering (great performance in a small role by Kokuten Kodo).

Then we have a series of trading shots of Yukie and mother rushing towards the paddies. Hattori introduces a primitive, rhythmic drum beat.

These shots move from medium to close-up. Cut to the paddies. They have been destroyed and there are signs stuck into the mud everywhere around. Mother falls to her knees, crying -- Yukie looks around in disgust. Close-up on the paddies again. The camera pans over to a sign.

"KEEP OUT, TRAITORS!" The camera returns to Yukie. Her head turns towards another sign.

"KEEP OUT, TRAITORS!" Back to Yukie. To another sign.

"KEEP OUT, SPIES!" Cut to Yukie. [The drum music ends.] She moves towards the sign and begins to tear it up and throw it away. Cut to mother. She watches as Yukie does the same to another sign. [Here, Kurosawa introduces the first of a series of cuts taken from high above the rice paddy.] Silently, the two of them begin to re-plant the rice. Silently. Mother looks up. Father is running down the path.

"Dear!"

He struggles towards one of the signs.

"Damn them! Damn fools!" He pulls the sign up and throws it. He does the same with another.

"You rotten sinners! Curse you all!" He looks up, as though he expects immediate results.

However, he shakily moves towards the job of actually planting rice. He grabs a plant. His hands are shaking, but he manages to plant some rice.

Cut to the women, rejoicing! Yukie rushes over to her mother, who is smiling broadly.

"Yukie!" Hattori's music reaches a major chord climatic ending. Fade to black.

Now begins another marvelous Kurosawa magical moment:

Up on piano music and the hands playing it. We hear and see this for about 20 seconds. Then a

Dissolve to Yukie's hands, now covered and rough -- she is soothing them in the cool water and hearing the music in her head! It is raining. The rain drips from her hat. We hear a man's voice.

"Excuse me." Yukie turns her head to see the man, standing above her on the road.

"Would you know where the Noge residence is?" [as his dialogue begins, the piano music fades -- and the sound of frogs replaces the piano!] "The Noge residence?"

Cut to a medium shot of this man. It is Itokawa!

Dissolve to stairs leading up to a level floor on a structure with a roof. They are taking cover from the rain. Itokawa runs up first. Yukie follows. [Notice how in this wipeless film, Kurosawa denotes a short passage of time. Yukie never answered Itokawa -- we just suddenly find ourselves in this little shelter, where their conversation continues.]

"What a surprise!," he begins. "No, more than a surprise!"

Yukie walks slowly. She puts her heavy tool down and faces Itokawa and smiles slightly. Itokawa faces her. His expression is serious.

"It was your mother who sent me, not your father. Frankly, I don't want to see you rot away here either. Noge may have taken the wrong path, but that doesn't mean --" Cut to close-up of Yukie, smiling peacefully. Back to Itokawa. He laughs that demonic laugh and sits down.

"All right, you win! I don't know whether it's zeal or devotion, but your sheer life force makes me feel ashamed. I'll talk to your parents. I'll tell them it's silly to worry about you."

Again he laughs that laugh. But the laugh subsides and his face reveals his emptiness.

"In any event, please show me the way to Noge's grave. I've come all this way. I should pay my respects." Yukie still has not spoken. She turns sideways and begins to wring the water out of the cloths that cover the blisters on her hands. Several cuts back and forth. Finally, she speaks.

"Don't." He looks shocked.

"Perhaps I should feel grateful ..."

Close-up. " ... but I won't allow it." Close on Itokawa, still shocked and then a medium shot on both.

"I doubt Noge would be pleased by your visit." Pause. "Prosecutor Itokawa may believe that Noge took the wrong path in life ... [music beings] but ultimately only time will judge ..."

[in the VHS version previous to this Eclipse release, the subtitles for this read:

" ... Time is a slow but fair judge." That line resonated with me sufficiently for me to choose it for my "image" caption at the beginning of this post, despite the new translation.]

Dissolve to Itokawa, walking along a road, by himself, but still hearing her voice...

" ... whose path was the right one." Itokawa walks up the road. The music (again) leads us to believe that the movie is over. But...Fade to black.

Up on intertitle:

"DAY OF JUDGMENT: THE WAR IS LOST, BUT FREEDOM IS RESTORED."

Up on the Kyoto tower. The bells are ringing. Cut to another view of the university. Another and another. Cut to inside the school. Students are clapping. Cut to the podium, where others are seated and clapping, including the man who came to Professor Yagihara's house way back at the beginning of this film. Yagihara wipes his glasses. He looks out at the students.

"There is one man who ... more than anyone else, I wish could have seen this day. He fought for academic freedom. Moreover, he risked everything in the service ... of peace and prosperity for Japan. He was the pride of our university. His name was Ryukichi Noge, and he is no longer with us ..."

Cut to a close-up of the man, Yagihara's associate.

"... However ..." Cut to the janitor.

" ... There was a time when Noge sat right over there ..." Yagihara points out to a seat -- "... where you gentlemen are now sitting. I hope and expect ... that many, many more men like Noge will arise from your ranks ... and that is why ... I have decided, despite my age, to return to teaching." Cut to his associate, who begins the clapping. Three different cuts on the students. Cut to the janitor, outside the hall. Cut to Mrs. Yagihara at home.

Music: The Kyoto theme played softly on piano.

"It's so quiet. How many years has it been since a day like this? These last ten years feel like a fleeting dream. I wake up to find that nothing has changed." The camera begins a rightward pan as she continues.

"Your father left for the university today ..." Pan right to Yukie, sitting at the piano.

" ... If you moved back, everything would be just like before. Are you really going to leave? If Noge's parents understand his actions now, haven't you accomplished your goal?" Yukie looks up lovingly at her mother. What a different person this is than the Yukie from the beginning of the film!

"No. I've put down roots in that village. Mother, look at my hands." She lets them fall lightly on the piano keys, making a cluster of notes ring out.

"They look so out of place on a piano now. Besides, there's still so much work left to do there. Their lives -- especially the women's lives -- are brutally hard ..."

[Notice how well Kurosawa is complying with SCAP's directive to make films which emphasize the new "women's rights" in postwar Japan.]

" ... If I can improve their lot even a little, my life will be well spent. You could say I'm the shining light of the rural cultural movement." She laughs again. She is genuinely happy. Her mother speaks softly and sadly.

"You were born to suffer, my child."

"Why? I've never seen myself that way." Close-up. "And I'm not just putting on a brave face. Noge always used to say ... 'No regrets in my life.' That's the source of my happiness." Although we don't see her hands, she appears to be playing the piano -- which on the soundtrack is the Kyoto theme, which continues into the next

Dissolve to Yukie from the back, at the edge of the water. Another dissolve to a running stream with rocks. Yukie sits by the edge of the water. Some students, dressed in black uniforms, come bounding across the rocks. Is this an old memory for Yukie? No, this is now -- the students cross the stream, someone is whistling the Kyoto theme song -- then they begin to sing it.

"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"

Dissolve to the side of a road, trucks are rumbling by. One of them brakes to a stop.
People in the back motion to Yukie -- who now enters the frame with a bag, and runs after the truck...

Close-up -- another woman takes her bag -- Yukie hoists herself up and into the truck. Everyone is smiling. Several men smile and bow politely. Yukie smiles, leaning up against the truck. Someone bangs on the cab and off they go, leaving us -- and the camera -- to watch the truck disappear down the road, leaving a trail of dust in its wake...

End credits superimposed: "No Regrets For Our Youth -- The End" c. 1946 Toho Co., Ltd.

Fade to black.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SOURCES:

Stephen Prince: "The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa," (Princeton University Press (1991/1999) [SP]

Donald Richie: "The Films of Akira Kurosawa," University of California Press (1998) [DR]

James Goodwin: "Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema," The John Hopkins University Press (1994) [JG]

Stuart Galbraith IV: "The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune," Faber and Faber (2001) [SG]

Akira Kurosawa: "Something Like an Autobiography," Vintage Books (1983) [AK]

There are no wipes in this film.

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