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Madadayo (1993)


Though a story about a Mad Daimyo might have been better...
Though a story about a Mad Daimyo might have been better...

Genre: Drama (Japan)

Starring: Tatsuo Matsumura, Kyôko Kagawa (Red BeardHigh And Low)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa (SanjuroOne Wonderful Sunday)

Overview: This is the story of professor Uehida. From his retirement from teaching into old age, he is always surrounded and aided by the students who loved and respected him, from helping in getting a new house to throwing an annual birthday bash for him.

I suspect that Kurosawa knew Madadayo would be his swan song. Why else would a film be so personal, about a man retiring, yet keeping the respect, aid and friendship of those who called him Sensei? In the documentary featurette about the making of Ran, the cast and crew called Akira 'Sensei' as well, meaning a teacher and expect of a given field, be it judo or flower arranging; in this case, filmmaking. Yes, Madadayo is a cavalcade of the later-life moments of a 60-year-old aging man as he lives through war, thin times, loss, plenty and gain, ever surrounded by those he loves.

Madadayo is a drama much like Fanny and Alexander, exploring the highs and lows of a man, and occasionally the tales are enjoyable, but there's the rub... occasionally. Perhaps it's too much of a cultural paradigm to imagine a teacher of German in a Japanese school starting such a tight legacy as an annual birthday banquet in his honour. Maybe Japanese culture respects their teachers in a way no North-American could... well, actually they'd have to, especially for a Japanese German teacher, talk about a stretch.

Our professor, Uehida, is a very sentimental man, one who is easily moved to tears, be it by acts of kindness such as when his students stand up and sing to him when he declares his retirement in the first scene, or loss when he his cat goes missing.

The parallels between Kurosawa and professor Uehida are obvious, and perhaps I've just been tainted by the glory I know The Emperor is capable of. Still, from what I've read out there, Madadayo is certainly not considered one of his best, and in that I would have to agree. Sometimes it's just hard to love a character study.

Two fans in the hand are worth 7 blenders in the bush... or something metric like that
Two fans in the hand are worth 7 blenders in the bush... or something metric like that

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 7 Script: 7 Plot: 6 Mood: 7

Overall Rating: 70% (Actually, that was Yet)

I was expecting Kurosawa's last films to be inferior works, so too was the case with Hitchcock. Still, though I didn't appreciate Madadayo anywhere near as much as Ran and Kagemusha, it was far more personal and seemed to be a very appropriate parallel to the director who made it.

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