The Lady and the Beard begins as a knockabout, vulgar comedy but shades into melancholy and pathos. The “beard” of the title belongs to Okajima, a kendo sword fencer and collegian who cannot find a job in Depression-era Japan. The beard comes off when “the lady”—a typist he has saved from a mugging—convinces Okajima it’s a hindrance to gainful employment. Even clean-shaven, he cannot shrug off trouble: the new woman in his life turns out to be a jewel thief. The Lady and the Beard is fascinating for its “sexual audacity” and for its complex critique of both westernization and narrow-minded Japanese nationalism.