A Month of Kurosawa: Madadayo (1993)

To celebrate the upcoming release of my book, Akira Kurosawa: A Viewer’s Guide, due out Dec. 15 from Rowman & Littlefield — preorder here! — I’ll be doing capsule reviews all month covering every single Kurosawa film and posting (very) brief excerpts. These will be short impressions and recommendations, nothing more. For a full, detailed analysis of each, grab the book!

Madadayo (1993)

Akira Kurosawa’s final film concerns an older man experiencing the ups and downs of a long life, looking back at a life well led, and saying to himself, “I’m not ready to go yet.” It sure is a mystery why the director would be interested in this kind of subject matter!

From the book:

At 77 years old, Uchida jokes at his birthday celebration about being ready, about how the willow tree in his yard was once too small for him to hang himself from, but now it’s just right. All laugh. He does not fear death, not when surrounded by the people he loves. By the end of his life these are not just gatherings of teacher and student, they are true family gatherings.

This is a warm, sometimes charming little movie that is very comfortable with what it is, though in truth its primary interest is that it was Kurosawa’s final film. As such, casual fans can wait on this one, but Kurosawa aficionados should absolutely add it to their list, even if only to see what the master his final time behind the camera. The primary interest here is one of historical significance — it’s not a top-tier Kurosawa by any means — but that’s okay. Kurosawa’s work is so personal, this sort of context can be very helpful in understanding the full scope of his career.

Check out my upcoming book for a full analysis exploring this film’s ideas, themes, good points, and bad

You can get the movie in this home release.