Following World War II, a retired professor approaching his autumn years finds his quality of life drastically reduced in war-torn Tokyo. Denying despair, he pursues writing and celebrates his birthday with his adoring students.
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This film tells the story of professor Uehida Hyakken-sama (1889-1971), in Gotemba, around the forties. He was a university professor until an air raid, when he left to become a writer and has to live in a hut. His mood has hardly changed, not by the change nor by time. Every year his students celebrate his birthday, issuing the question "Mahda kai?" (not yet?), just to hear Uehida-san's answer "Madada yo!" (No, not yet!), in a ritual of self affirmation, and desires of lasting forever. It's a very "japanese" film who portrays everyday life and customs in Japan. Written by
Jaime Moraga <email@example.com>
Madadayo (1993) was the last film written and directed by the great Akira Kurosawa. Sadly, although the movie bears touches of Kurosawa's genius, it is not a truly memorable film.
The plot follows the life of a kindly professor, who retires from teaching but who is revered, respected, and almost worshiped by his former students. The problem for me was that we see the professor's many child-like foibles--which the students don't appear to mind--but we never see any evidence of the professor's greatness.
The professor taught German, not philosophy or religion, so the subject matter of his lectures couldn't have been inherently inspiring. We are never told what he said within or outside of class that brings about the fervent admiration of his students.
After the professor retires, he suffers a series of unpleasant incidents--some serious and some trivial. In each case he students come together to help restore his life to balance. In addition, they have a highly formalized party on his birthday each year. Eventually they include their wives, children, and grandchildren in these laudatory ceremonies.
The film is not boring, and it excels in the crowd scenes as well as in the scenes of wartime destruction, but it never provides a central core of substance that would have made the details and incidents meaningful.
We saw this film at the excellent Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House in Rochester. However, most of the action takes place indoors, and I'm sure the movie would work well on the small screen.
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