“Memories of Matsuko” is one of the most bizarre, yet enjoyable movie-watching experiences I’ve ever had. The two films I’ve heard people compare it to the most are “Moulin Rouge!” and “Amelie”. This is a correct assessment, but in my opinion, Matsuko’s the far better picture!
The film revolves around the life of Matsuko who is deprived of her father’s love as a child. She realizes that the only way to get her father’s attention and affection is to degrade herself (by making that silly face). This develops into a bad habit as she progresses in life and whenever she is faced with being alone, she chooses the demeaning path, because that’s what worked with her father. We soon see her as a prostitute, a Yakuza girl, and in several abusive relationships. What’s even more heart-breaking is the fact that Matsuko tries to make the best out of every situation but it somehow always ends in tragedy.
The character of Matsuko is brilliantly played by the beautiful, Miki Nakatani. I’ve never seen anything from her before, but this film proves that she is one of the top actresses in Japan, if not the world! The director, Tetsuya Nakashima, really brought out the best in her and it’s a shame that the two don’t get along and will most likely never work together again. Asuka Kurosawa who plays the character of “Megumi” also gives a noteworthy performance. I personally think the film is at its best when she’s in it!
Switching gears, I did have a few minor problems with the film. First of all, there’s this childhood lullaby song that plays one too many times throughout the course of the movie. By the end, you really get tired of hearing it,…at least I did! Another problem I had was how Matsuko died. The film builds it up as a whodunit and when we finally find out who the killer is, the conclusion is far less important, powerful, or striking than expected. (Please note that this is not a spoiler…you find out Matsuko dies very early on in the film and its even stated in the synopsis) Several other reviews I’ve read commented that the film drags at the end and they’re right! I think 5-10 minutes of editing would have made it flow much better.
As for the positives, there’s a lot to love here! The musical scenes are absolutely brilliant and the songs are very catchy! The acting, story, cinematography, visual effects, and direction are all top-notch! Another thing that’s great about “Memories of Matsuko” is that it’s re-watchable! I’ve seen it so many times already and have yet to get tired of it.
In my opinion, the film deserves a lot more prestige than its currently getting and its bizarre that its almost unknown outside of Japan! I also find it hard to believe that this film didn’t win the Japanese Academy Award for Best Picture that year! The Academy is obviously brainless for picking “Hula Girls” to win while “Memories of Matsuko” didn’t even get recognized with a nomination!?! Talk about an injustice!
To sum everything up, “Memories of Matsuko” is a film that will stay with you days after watching it. Whether you’re into artsy films or mainstream, I think there’s a lot here for any type of person to enjoy! Highly Recommended especially for fans of “Kamikaze Girls”, “Dancer in the Dark”, and “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs”. -5/5 stars!