Thursday, 19 June 2008

MADADAYO!/Not Yet (1993)

MADADAYO! is the last film of the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. It is a deceptively simple film based on the retirement years of a real-life teacher named Hyakken Uchida (beautifully played by Tatsuo Matsumara) and his relationship with his ex-students and his friends...and his cat, Nora. The style is simple and the story touchingly told but, perhaps because it is the master's last opus one cannot but help but make comparisons with Kurosawa's life. Did he know it would be his last film ? Probably, which makes this reflective film even more touching. I wouldn't want to read too much into it but while watching I was forcibly struck by the thought that the grief shown by Uchida when his beloved cat just up and leaves him for no apparent reason, perhaps, has its origins in Kurosawa's famous split with his star and protege, Toshiro Mifune. But, maybe that is just my over active imagination. I have no real need to recommend this film (although I do, unreservedly) because if you are a Kurosawa admirer it is essential viewing. It is more personal than other late works like KAGEMUSHA and the mighty RAN so it is perhaps a more poignant film to bow out with. Rating **** P.S. The title translates literally as "Not Yet!" and refers to the Japanese children's game of hide and seek and although the cry is obviously used symbolically about old age in the film, it's true significance becomes clear in the film's final scene.

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