What Radiation Created, One Long Movie Can Destroy
Filmed in 1993, Madadayo was master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s final film, before tragically boring himself to death. What’s worse is that this film also took down uncredited co-director Ishiro Honda, director of Godzilla and the man who brought us an entire genre of Japanese man-in-monster-suit movies. Madadayo is the story of a Japanese university professor who retires at age 60 and then refuses to die for maybe 10 hours of screen time, despite having made his last good film in 1985. I mean taught his last class before the Second World War.
There’s a lot of partying in this movie, a lot of enjoying life, and a lot of really trying to be Frank Capra. But the thing about Akira Kurosawa is that I really like it when he’s being Kurosawa, not Capra, because being Kurosawa means being like John Ford but with swords and costumes that look like swaddling clothes. Frankly, if Toshiro Mifune’s not it the movie and somebody doesn’t get shot in the neck with an arrow, I don’t need to see it. Kurosawa, at his best, was a powerful filmmaker who compromised a uniquely Japanese vision for an international accessible hybrid of Western sensibilities and Asian culture. At his worst, however, he’s self-indulgent and tired, as in Madadayo. Still, even then, he proved to be strong enough to kill Godzilla.