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Madadayo
Japan 1993
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Running time 134 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Kurosawa's final  film is a very personal work, a simple and slow-moving story of a retired professor, or sensei (Tatsuo Matsumura) based on the autobiographical essays of real-life professor and author, Hyakken Uchida. The title of the film comes from a toast given during the annual parties set up by his adoring students. The guests ask "mahda-kai?", which means "are you ready ?".  And the professor answers "madadayo," which means "not yet."

It is understandable there is a considerable amount of personal identification with the story on the part of Kurosawa who was at the time 83 years old but the director is so indulgent with his material that it is a film that will offer only passing interest for most in the depiction it gives of life in post-war Japan. It certainly offers little dramatically and for the most part comes across as at best whimsical at worse sentimental, particularly in a drawn-out episode involving the professor’s lost cat.

The final sequence however is a slice of Kurosawa at his best  - a poignant  mixture of remembrance of things past and unforgiving reality served up with painterly abstraction and underscored by classical music.  There are other moments of beauty dotted throughout the film but except for the most patient they are really too intermittent to sustain 134 mins.

 

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