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.
An elderly woman living in Nagasaki Japan takes care of her four grandchildren for their summer vacation. They learn about the atomic bomb that fell in 1945, and how it killed their grandfather.Written by
Matthew Rorie <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If this is a "weak" movie by Akira Kurosawa, then I can imagine how great a "strong" one is. Perhaps it is uncharacteristic of his work. So what? Must it be a samurai epic to be great? What Samurai epics by Kurosawa that I have seen are spectacular.
The elements of great drama are all here. An old woman who had lost her husband in the atom bomb explosion at Nagasaki discovers that she has a brother who had emigrated to Hawaii seventy years earlier, had become an American citizen, and had married a woman not of Japanese origin through correspondence that her grandchildren had with their uncle's son (Richard Gere). The old woman has demons with which to contend -- The Bomb, the military defeat which must have seared the esteem of every Japanese of the time, the intrusion of American culture into Japanese life, her children who have become insufferably petty and materialistic... ...Sure, Richard Gere is not one of my favorite actors, but he plays the role of someone 'just visiting' who speaks broken Japanese. That minor role mercifully stretches his limited acting talents little..
The treatment of Nagasaki as two worlds -- one lost, one all-new -- seems to tell me much about the Japanese, at least of the children's generation. Maybe the children can save the memory of the significance of the changes in Japan since 1945, if not the events themselves.
The confusing ending prevents me from giving a "10/10" rating. Not since the Civil War have any Americans have experienced anything remotely similar to the events in this story in America. It's beautifully done, and it is gripping for someone who has no ties to Japan. It reminds me in some respects of "Gone With the Wind" without the objectionable features of racism, catty characters as protagonists, or perverse sentimentality of a rotten social order such as the one that Japan had before 1945. If GWTW gets an "8" from me, then "Rhapsody in August" gets a "9".
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