The Blue Pearl (1951)
Though recognized worldwide almost exclusively for his colorful kaiju fare, director Ishirō Honda (Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra) was a natural humanist with a particular understanding of the relationship between people and their social environs. His debut fiction feature, The Blue Pearl (Aoi Shinju) – virtually unseen in the west until now – depicts the melodramatic, but keenly-observed interplay between a young man from Tokyo and two ama (pearl divers; literally “women of the sea”) in a superstitious coastal town. Though raised within the same tradition-bound crucible, the two women – Noe and Riu – are portrayed as diametric opposites; the former meek but affectionate, the latter strong-willed but jaded by a tryst with metropolitan life. Nonetheless, Honda provides equal weight to their desires and their ambitions to break free from the social mold imposed upon them from birth.