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Memories of Matsuko (2006)

Kiraware Matsuko no isshô (original title)
When Matsuko dies of murder, her nephew Sho gets to progressively unveil many details of her mysterious past, discovering she wasn't only a forgotten outcast but led a very interesting yet bizarre life.



(screenplay), (novel)
9 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Matsuko Kawajiri
Shô Kawajiri
Yôichi Ryû
Mikako Ichikawa ...
Kumi Kawajiri
Asuka Kurosawa ...
Megumi Sawamura
Gori ...
Shûji Ôkura
Shinji Takeda ...
Yoshiyoshi Arakawa ...
Kenji Shimazu
Gekidan Hitori ...
Takeo Okano
Magy ...
Shôsuke Tanihara ...
Shunji Saeki
Takanori Takeyama ...
Masahiro Kômoto ...
Man with Stand on School Trip
Nagisa Katahira ...
Takuzô Kadono ...


Shou's father Norio finds his son in a rather meaningless existence in Tokyo dominated by alcohol and porn videos. Having left home two years earlier to pursue life as a musician, Shou has left his band and his girlfriend has left him. His father asks a favor, that Shou clean out the apartment of his aunt Matsuko, who he says led a meaningless life until her murder at the age of 53. The apartment is filled with garbage bags and is even more unkempt than his apartment has become, and he becomes intrigued with his aunt as details of her life are supplied by a tattooed neighbor and others. Her feelings of neglect by her father Tsunehiro, who favored her chronically ill younger sister, Kumi, translated into becoming a dutiful junior high school teacher devoted to her students until being forced to resign after being blamed for the theft of some money by one of them. Leaving her family due to the disgrace, she had a series of affairs with lovers who physically abused her and did a stint as... Written by Brian Greenhalgh

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

murder | prison | theft | teacher | suicide | See All (43) »


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Release Date:

27 May 2006 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Memories of Matsuko  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(5.1 surround)


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Referenced in Stilt-Walker (2013) See more »


Written by ch, B-BandJ, Masao Nisugi & Yosuke Miyake
Performed by ch (Dakota Star) featuring B-BandJ (FU-TEN)
Courtesy of tearbridge production for avex entertainment Inc.
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User Reviews

Attachment and release
30 November 2014 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

The film is about memory as the English title states, this brings it under one of the most vital (and most cinematic) subgroups in cinema, films about our ability to recall life as illusion and mind rather than as just a bunch of surrounding facts. So what kind of recall here?

A vagrant middle-aged woman is discovered dead one day, the kind of nameless death that might make neighbors pause for only a brief moment, and this is the first admission here; ordinary life next door can be the center of a rich world. This is done with a little too much obvious caprice for my taste but the essence is the same, we go back to find this woman when she was a sweet young girl with all of life and heartbreak still ahead of her.

I don't know how much is personal for the filmmaker here but much is revealed by simply examining appearances. A vibrant memory, with a hyperactive consciousness that joyously swims through tragedy. It starts like one of those hyper Japanese TV ads, the filmmaker apparently has plenty of experience in those, but as we progress the whole is mellowed and given resonance behind the popup colors. This is the second admission, that life deserves to be celebrated with as much color.

A preeminent formulator of Noh wrote in the 1400s, Zen inspired, that "life is a lying dream, he only wakes who casts the world aside". There's no such effort here to awaken to what creates suffering and to purify, the film is simply taken in by the swirl and sadness of suffering. I was reminded of the lush Powell/Pressburger melodramas from the 40s as well as recent Julie Taymor with her song and dance. Others thought of Tim Burton. To be sure though the fixation with color and artifice is as recent in Japan as anime but as old as kabuki.

So, overwrought and sentimental melodrama on one side, too much so for my taste. Just the same I appreciate the bubbly air that refuses to dwell on misfortune; it's quickly brushed aside for some new heartbreak to come along. Yet it doesn't address its own question about the meaninglessness of life and it's in this deeper way that the absence of awakening resurfaces. The girl is merely buffeted along by attachment and need and at no point, down to her final moments, comes to a realization.

In the list of hearbreaking films ultimately this deserves its own place next to Capra's Wonderful Life. This is, as much as anything else, because the filmmaker leaves his heroine to a horrible life and meaningless end because in the end she's only the figment of a story that he uses to inspire with but that inspiration and change is never allowed to her inside the story. The bittersweet worldview says, suffer as much as you are able to bear, in the end there is release.

The penultimate scene is possibly one of the twenty best shots I have seen in my life, a flow of consciousness that lifts up from her and races through waters. Marvelous work. This is the cultivated awareness of the illusory life the Japanese have known for centuries across Shinto temples, Zen and the Noh stage.

But the maker ends this a scene late for my taste. The last one revisits the home of childhood as the place from which to ascend, paying homage to the well known stairway scene from A Matter of Life and Death by Powell/Pressburger, which just says too much now as it did then.

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