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Rhapsody in August (1991)



Genre: Drama (Japan)

Starring: Sachiko Murase, Hisashi Igawa (MadadayoDreams)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa (Judo SagaThrone Of Blood)

Overview: Four children learn of tragic times as they summer with their grandmother, a survivor and widow of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

Of the 31 films he's directed, eight of Kurosawa's films have strong post-war / anti-war themes, but none so focused on World War II as Rhapsody in August, which tells of the tragic events of August 9th, 1945, the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

Let me being by saying that Rhapsody in August is far more an 'important' film than it is 'good'. The story revolves around an old grandmother whose husband died on that day, and the grandchildren learn of the events by visiting memorials and hearing her stories.

Learning of these events, and of the traditions people have for remembering this solemn event in their ceremonies and memorials is certainly the best this film has to offer.

The acting, the dialogue and the blocking are all greatly inferior to the 'standard Kurosawa' I'm used to. The children are no more than archetypes, sounding boards for the sentiment poured onto them. Their personality traits are nothing more than identifiers of difference: one sister is thin, one isn't. The eldest boy says 'absolutely' a lot, the youngest is... young.

Sadly, something suffered in the writing and casting phases of this project, and for as much as I wanted to love this film, it seemed just a little too clunky to me.


Performance: 5 Cinematography: 8 Script: 5 Plot: 6 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 64% (Slush In January)

With a study of this nature, watching the classics and the bombs (pardon the pun) of a director, especially one who belongs to a different culture, one must commit themselves to having an open mind for what we're experiencing. Everything, even the worst trash cinema, has good moments, and Rhapsody in August certainly had some great and heart-breaking scenes. The scene where the children visits the memorials sent from different countries, the old jungle gym, twisted by the heat of the blast all those years ago, the survivors, remembering that solemn day, these are all good reasons to watch Rhapsody in August, there's much to learn, however it is framed by a weak script and actors without any sort of presence.

One thing I'd never thought I'd see in a million years is Richard Gere in a Kurosawa film. But there he is, as a Japanese-speaking American with Japanese relatives, there in hopes of personally convincing grandma to come visit Hawaii to meet a long lost brother.

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