Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Portrait of An Artist As An Old Man

"Madadayo", (which in Japanese means "Not Yet"), was Akira Kurosawa's last film. He was 88 and probably a tired man. Suntory whiskey can do that to you. But "Madadayo" offers no such clues, for it opens wide its arms and embraces both life and death. This is no sentimental look at a life well-lived, neither is it pessimistic. It is simply beautiful. You wonder, was this written and directed by the same man who attempted suicide in 1970?

Most of us know at least one venerable, all-knowing Guru. Whether a favorite teacher from school or a music teacher, these were people with a fine mind whose influence on us extended well beyond the narrow circumference of their chosen subject. The protagonist of the film, a German Lit professor, is such a teacher. His students love him dearly and go to great lengths to make his life after retirement secure and comfortable.

Mr. Kurosawa simply observes the Sensei's life with its ups and downs. A house is burnt down, a cat is lost, a garden is built, a big mug of beer is had....tiny vignettes that are small films in themselves. But look past the surface and you will see deep observations on identification and attachment. Enjoy the warmth and lightness with which Mr. Kurosawa handles the interactions between the sensei and the students: they are filled with humor, grace, wit and startling zen-like wisdom at times.

There are some who find the film sentimental and consequently, find it "too" accessible. I am not one of them. "Madadayo" is a great director's great goodbye. If you have never seen an Akira Kurosawa film before, watch "Madadayo" and get to know the great Sensei.


uma said...

lovely post. i shall see this film as soon as i can.

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