MADADAYO

(English translation: "Not Yet")
(1993 - Japan)
With Tatsuo Matsumura, Kyoko Kagawa, Hishashi Igawa, Joji Tokoro
Written and Directed by
Akira Kurosawa
Reviewed by JB


     MADADAYO, Akira Kurosawa's final film, is at times haunting, at other times unbearably manipulative. The story of an aging professor and the former students who throw a party for him every year, MADADAYO is unnecessarily static and talkie, all the more the shame when the most powerful and memorable moments of the film are purely visual.  Like Chaplin in his later films, the aging Akira Kurosawa seems to have fallen in love with long speeches in his screenplays.

     There is a subgenre of films that could be called "Elderly Men Facing Death".  Kurosawa's IKIRU, of course, is one, as is De Sica's UMBERTO D, Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES and perhaps even Chaplin's LIMELIGHT.  MADADAYO is Kurosawa second foray into the genre (third if you count RECORD OF A LIVING BEING) but it does not live up to any of the previously stated titles and certainly pales when compared to IKIRU.  However, there are several excellent performances, especially Tatsuo Matsumura as the professor and Kyoko Kagawa as his wife, both of whom who had worked for Kurosawa before. 

     When Kurosawa goes go for imagery over talk he still has the magic touch, especially in a scene where the professor is stared down by a passing horse while purchasing horsemeat at the butcher, and the short but effective montage of the couple passing an entire year in a ramshackle hut.  A nearly silent sequence of two of his students testing out the professor's anti-burglary system surely stems from Kurosawa's stated admiration for the beauty of silent movies, and supports my own conjecture that the director may have been a fan of Laurel and Hardy.

     "Madadayo" is a cry from a children's game meaning "Not yet."  Akira Kurosawa was keenly aware of his own mortality, and MADADAYO was his own personal reaffirmation that he still had plenty of life left in him, and many more films to make.  Illness, injury and old age, however, prevented him from continuing his life's work, and MADADAYO, flawed though it may be, became Kurosawa's fitting cinematic epitaph. 2½ - JB

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