Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa (No Regrets for Our Youth / One Wonderful Sunday / Scandal / The Idiot / I Live in Fear)
The Criterion Collection
DVD | Box Set
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Akira Kurosawa came into his own as a filmmaker directly following World War II, delving into the state of his devastated nation with a series of pensive, topical dramas. Amid Japan's economic collapse and U.S. occupation, Kurosawa managed to find humor and redemption existing alongside despair and anxiety. In these five early films, which range from political epic to Capraesque whimsy to courtroom potboiler, Kurosawa revealed the artistic range and social acuity that would mark his career and make him the most popular Japanese director in the world.
NO REGRETS FOR OUR YOUTH
Akira Kurosawa 1946
In Akira Kurosawa's first film after the end of World War II, future beloved Ozu regular Setsuko Hara gives an astonishing performance as Yukie, who transforms herself from genteel bourgeois daughter to independent social activist during a tumultuous decade in Japanese history.
ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY
Akira Kurosawa 1947
This affectionate paean to young love is also a frank examination by Akira Kurosawa of the harsh realities of postwar Japan. During a Sunday trip into war-ravaged Tokyo, Yuzo and Masako look for work and lodging, as well as affordable entertainments to pass the time.
Akira Kurosawa 1950
A handsome, suave Toshiro Mifune lights up the screen as painter Ichiro, whose circumstantial meeting with a famous singer is twisted by the tabloid press into a torrid affair. Ichiro files a lawsuit against the seedy gossip magazine, but his lawyer, Hiruta (Takashi Shimura), is playing both sides.
Akira Kurosawa 1951
THE IDIOT, an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's masterpiece about a wayward, pure soul's reintegration into society updated by Kurosawa to capture Japan's postwar aimlessness was a victim of studio interference and public indifference. Today, this folly looks ever more fascinating.
I LIVE IN FEAR
Akira Kurosawa 1955
I LIVE IN FEAR presents Toshiro Mifune as an elderly, stubborn businessman so fearful of a nuclear attack that he resolves to move his reluctant family to South America. Kurosawa depicts a society emerging from the shadows but still terrorized by memories of the past and anxieties for the future.
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The best film in this collection is 'No Regrets for Our Youth', but this alone is no reason to spend $60+ on a set of five films. The other films, though quality, are not quite up to the high bar that Kurosawa sets with No Regrets. His films from a few years later: Rashomon, Ikiru, and Seven Samurai are among his best and arguably among the best films in history. This set is essential for true fans, but No Regrets can be rented via Netflix if you merely want to see it and not own it.
This set is great, but I recommend spending the $300 or so and purchasing the entire collection, in the long run this is cheaper for die hard Kurosawa fans. The other four films are very good and help give one a nice look at Kurosawa's coming of age... still I love this set!
Update: After tiring of trying to periodically luck out with this at my local library (it gets re-requested instantly and gets long hold lists), I was given this set as a gift. Watching through the films a second time, and being much more diverse in my classic world cinema outlook, I even more heartily recommend these films. I am a huge Kurosawa fan. The Eclipse collection for pre-war Kurosawa is rather interesting academically for those fans of his film career, but are not amazing films in their own right. It was really No Regrets for Our Youth where Kurosawa was able to come into his own and Stray Dog of course put him on the international scene.
No Regrets for Our Youth stars an impressive Setsuko Hara in a terrific female empowering role. She was soon to become Ozu's favorite leading lady after Late Spring.
One Wonderful Sunday is rather touching, yet sad. I did love the use of Schubert's unfinished symphony in the final scene. A poor, young couple try to enjoy one day together in a Japan struggling to rebuild just after the war.
Scandal was one of my favorites on this collection. I really enjoyed Takashi Shimura as the crooked lawyer. A film about two celebrities caught in an innocent photograph that is spun by the tabloids as a secret affair. They hire a lawyer to fight the tabloids, but he has his own problems and is tempted by corruption.
The Idiot is a fair adaptation of the Dostoevsky novel. As much as a two hour adaptation of a giant novel can be considered fair. I kind of count this as a bonus addition to the set. It is a hard film to find outside of this set.
I live in fear is based on a recurring fear in the 50s of nuclear holocaust. This is a film that has a similar message as Godzilla, just made in dramatically different ways. Japan was horrified by atomic testing off nearby islands, one incident resulted in Japanese fisherman getting radiation poisoning. This set off a public outcry against the West, and Japanese directors were quick to feed the frenzy. A terrific film, oddly by one of the Japanese directors considered to be the most "Western" of all.
The restorations are good, but not quite as good as a regular (non-Eclipse series) release. They are filtered and cleaned up, just not to the level of quality as, say, Ikiru, Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Late Spring, and other early Japanese films of the 40s and 50s that were released through the regular Criterion label. An amazing collection. Worth the set for No Regrets for Our Youth, Scandal, and I Live in Fear. Five films for a fair price. Bravo Criterion.
In my opinion, the two best movies in the set are "No Regrets for our Youth" and "One Wonderful Sunday". These are near the quality, overall, of later works of the Master. "No Regrets..." tells of the idealism of young Japanese at the time the War was becoming reality. One person emerges from all the idealism and bravado as someone who walked the walk and talked the talk. In viewing this person's metamorphisis from observer to participant we see the early ability of the young director in using film to enhance a statement. In "One Wonderful Sunday" we get to observe young people trying to discover themselves in the midst of the destruction and corruption of Post-War Japan. Both of these films have a strong impact.
Two movies; "Scandal" and "I Live in Fear" come across as a bit excessive for the statement that is intended. This may be due to the times in which the films were made ("I Live in Fear" tells of a successful businessman who wants to escape the threat of atomic war). Kurosawa is usually more subtle in his statements which led me to be a bit less impressed with the extremeness of these two films.
The final film, "The Idiot" is an adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel. It is a bit long but it is still impressive as the story of how innocence eventually gets corrupted by the passions of the world around us. It come across more as a theater production captures on film.
Until this set came out, I was looking at trying to find rare VHS copies of the same movies. This set was well worth the price. Overall, I liked it better than my set of early Hitchcock movies.
I only rated it with three stars because the movies are far too depressing for me. I had thought one would be upbeat, but it really depressed me. I was depressed because the portrayal of the humanity of each character seemed so real. I couldn't bear to watch another one. I really prefer movies from the 30's that only had the the depression, high unemployment, crime, and the threat of war in the background.
If you are fortunate enough have the ability to maintain sufficient emotional distance, these are great movies.
Most recent customer reviews
Film = 3-1/2 stars; restoration = 4-1/2 stars.Read more