For his final film, Akira Kurosawa paid tribute to the immensely popular writer and educator Hyakken Uchida, here played by Tatsuo Matsumura. Madadayo is composed of distinct episodes based on Uchida’s writings that illustrate the affection and loyalty felt between Uchida and his students. Poignant and elegant, this is an unforgettable farewell from one of the greatest artists the cinema has ever known. –The Criterion Collection
The son of an army officer, Kurosawa studied art before gravitating to film as a means of supporting himself. He served seven years as an assistant to director Kajiro Yamamoto before he began his own directorial career with Sanshiro Sugata (1943), a film about the 19th century struggle for supremacy between adherents of judo and jujitsu that so impressed the military government, he was prevailed upon to make a sequel (Sanshiro Sugata Part Two). Following the end of World War II, Kurosawa’s career gathered speed with a series of films that cut across all genres, from crime thrillers to period dramas. Among the latter, his Rashomon (1951) became the first postwar Japanese film to find wide favor with Western audiences. It was Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954), however, that made the largest impact of any of his movies outside of Japan. Although heavily cut for its original release, this three-hour-plus medieval action drama, shot with painstaking… read more
One could surmise Madadayo as a parting work entirely self-aware, in its affectionate centering on a retiring, respected sensei ushering in his twilight years. Seeped in a mix of genial, screwball, revelry and nostalgia, with - by this point - an entirely dexterous cinematography to accommodate, conjuring a rapport that, as a boozing, rambling Fellini-esque cavalcade of the ups-and-downs of old age, becomes hard not to partake in. Neglected as swansong, celebration and film.