Review of No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)

Moving picture, 110 minutes

Seen in 2017.

A professor’s daughter is slowly stressed out of an easy life of bourgeois maladjustment by a fictionalized version of the Takigawa incident of 1933.

Post-war reflection on WW2. I find the original title, 「わが青春に悔なし」, beautiful in its brevity. Before seeing the film I incorrectly assumed it had a wry note, gentle as in Ozu’s depictions of boyhood, surreal as in “Zéro de conduite” (1933), or flaming like the students of Urusei Yatsura (1981) who take out their nostalgia in advance. Kurosawa instead approaches the subject with absolute sincerity, and pulls off the transformation of Hara’s character pretty well. Her counter-urban trajectory in the second half of the film is particularly rich. It does romanticize life in the rural cultural landscape as restorative for the spirit (pastoral), but it does not shy away from its drawbacks: poverty, dirt, heavy labour, ill health and ignorant attitudes. Kurosawa even makes the explicit point that this life is especially harsh for the women. No wonder that Hara Setsuko became an icon of radiant and suffering Japanese gentleness.

The tiny budget hurts the production in many small ways, and its romanticism constantly veers off toward the cliff of dogma before veering back. Hara’s character in the last shot would not look out of place on a Maoist propaganda poster. I assume the optimism is part of Kurosawa’s effort to distance his own future career from his more servile past under the old regime.

References here: One Wonderful Sunday (1947).

moving picture Japanese production fiction