The most important fact about THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, the story of factory women making lenses for war purposes, is that Akira Kurosawa met his wife, Yoko Yaguchi, during this film. Dozens of young beautiful actresses, a young single director --- it was bound to happen. The next most important fact is that Kurosawa hired actor Takashi Shimura for the second time in a row (he had previously appeared in the director's first film SANSHIRO SUGATA, aka JUDO STORY), and, having liked what he saw for a second time, would keep on hiring Shimura on and off for the next thirty-six years.
And that's about it. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL is a wartime film made by Kurosawa under the directive of the Japanese government, who were calling upon all studios to create pro-Imperialist films. It is well-directed and edited, showing that the man behind the camera did indeed possess talent, though beyond a couple of wipes, which would become a Kurosawa trademark, there is nothing in the film that screams "Kurosawa!". It's about women polishing lenses and playing volleyball in their spare time (and not in a sexy ESPN way either). Does that sound like Kurosawa to you? It is a dull film. That's really no crime, because, hell, lots of the propaganda films coming from America were dull too. If you are a Kurosawa completist like me, you have to see it once. If you are writing a book about Kurosawa, maybe you have to see it twice. But if you are just working on a well-rounded film education and want to see what Kurosawa was all about, you can safely skip it and straight for IKIRU, SEVEN SAMURAI, RASHOMON, YOJIMBO and RAN. ½ - JB