Saturday, July 24, 2010

Memories of Matsuko (2006)

Continuing the posts of the NYAFF into this weekend I'm going to write up Memories of Matsuko which is playing in the Japan Cuts look back at the Naughties unreleased in the US films. It also played the NYAFF proper a couple of years back and blew the roof off the festival.

To be perfectly honest I do not want to write this film up. I love it to death but it is so sad and so tragic that I don't want to go there again. However because my duty is to point out over looked films- and damn it this film is horribly overlooked, I find I have to do a full review even though I did a capsule one back on July 3rd.

This is the story of Sho, a 20 year old slacker musician who’s lost his girl and his band and is spending his time hanging out and watching porn. His father wakes him up one day telling him he has to go clean out the apartment of the aunt he never knew existed. It seems that Matsuko, his aunt “disappeared” thirty years earlier and only turned up when Sho’s father was informed that she had been found beaten to death next to a river. Finding his aunts apartment in total disarray (to put it mildly, its closer to a garbage dump), he begins to put the pieces of her life together based upon what he finds, the neighbors who knew her and the friends he stumbles upon the way.

I’m not going to lie, this film is a very sad film. I was deeply bothered by the sadness of our heroine’s life. Sure she muddles through, but for the most part she just can’t get a break and its heartbreaking. At the same time its very compelling you can’t help but like Matsuko and most of the people in her life. Sure it all goes wrong but she somehow survives, Would we all be able to do the same?

The film is a supreme mind bender because for the most part the film is full of bright happy colors and bright happy musical numbers which heighten the highs and the lows of the story. Your expectations are bounced back and fourth between images that should be happy but a story that isn't. This is a film that confounds your expectations and makes you really engage with what is happening.

I love this film a great deal, but at the same time I never want to see it again. I think an argument could be put forth that this is one of the greatest films that has both ever been made and one the greatest that no one in America has seen.

This is brilliant filmmaking and acting and everything we want from our movies- except that its not completely happy.

I 'm sorry if I keep going back to the sadness in the film, it kind of unavoidable. There is hope in the film, but Matsuko's life definitely ain't a bowl of cherries.

How good is this film? While the film is officially part of Japan Cuts this year it played the NYAFF a couple of years back and won the audience award by a staggering margin. Its a film with such a huge reputation that most people I know either want to see it again or for the first time.

Any film lover worth their salt needs to see this. This is one of the greatest films of all time and you need to track it down. It is available from Yes Asia last I checked, from Amazon UK in a region coded DVD and it can be had in Chinatowns so you can find it if you want to make an effort. (Its an effort worth making)

Just see this film, it will restore your faith in life and in the movies.

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