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 <email@example.com>
Another beautifully rendered Kurosawa film. Rhapsody in August explores the psychological impact of Anglo-Japanese relations in the wake of those who remember the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and to see if there are any wounds within that may manifest once having established a familial bond with an old enemy that is now a friend.
The political ramifications are clear, and fairly in the viewer's face, but I really didn't detect any sort of jab on the part of Kurosawa, who himself was opposed to the military regime of Imperial Japan and states in his autobiography that he wished he had been braver to oppose it. But, he was a child at the time, or at the very least a young man, and is perhaps being a little hard on himself with that bit of self admittance.
The film and Kurosawa don't take much position on the bombing of Nagasaki other than it was a bad thing. He let's the performers narrate his film as he sets the camera in one place with perfect lighting, and lets us witness the story unfold in the form of actors telling their views.
In a sense this film is supposed to be a kind of balm for older generations who still remember the second world war, and specifically the event of the Nagasaki bombing. It's designed to show the aftermath, the perception of how the horrors of war are still with us, and the emotional shock it has on a grandmother whose husband was lost (possibly vaporized) in the bombing. She is scarred for life, and much is made of the bombing event. One wonders if she would feel the same way were she living in the middle ages, and bandits or samurai from a rival clan came and chopped down her husband with a sword. And that's an important point, because even though the younger characters are given the frame of Americans as being callous, their prejudice is tempered by the appearance of an American family relation in the form of Richard Gere.
Suddenly Americans are real, and not some abstract concept that fly high altitude bombers and drop devastating weaponry. Is the psychology of the collective offspring salvaged to see people, even Americans, as people? You be the judge.
I have two personal opinions on this film in regards to the politics of the atomic bombings. I love Japanese culture, I love Japanese art, anime, martial arts, I wish we could incorporate aspects of Japanese culture into the United States to reshape and bring back the polite society that we had in this nation at one time. But, having said that, the best way to prevent Nagasakis and Hiroshimas is to prevent the Pearl Harbors. People get the government they deserve, and at the time the samurai class in Japan still had a stranglehold on the nation via the professional army shogunate that had no "rival lords" to oppose military decisions. The rest, as they say, is history.
A minor gripe about this film is Kurosawa's lack of SFX savvy. I wish the guy would have sprung the extra cash for some much needed miniature work and process shots. The miniature bugs me more by the fact that the shot that's in the film could have easily been substituted with stock footage. Where as the process shot used in the split screen flashback could have used a high end optical printer; i.e. ILM where were you when Kurosawa was putting the finishing touches on this thing.
All in all a decent film.
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