Film: Memories Of Matsuko *****
Release date: 14th February 2011
Running time: 130 mins
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Starring: Miki Nakatani, Eita, Yusuke Iseya, Teruyuki Kagawa, YosiYosi Arakawa
Studio: Third Window
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Quirky is a word often over used in modern cinema. Usually it has to be said, by the likes of me. I suppose I could always reach for the thesaurus and amaze you with other note-worthy definitions like peculiar, far-out, off beat and unconventional - but I wont. Partly because I like the word quirky and partly because I already did just that.
Rather predictably then, the word quirky brings me to Memories Of Matsuko, a film directed by Tetsuya Nakashima (Kamikaze Girls) that falls neatly into the abyss known as quirk-some. Memories of Matsuko is available for the first time on Blu-Ray, courtesy of Third Window Films, and if there’s one director whose back catalogue belongs on shiny blu - it’s Tatsuya Nakashima.
Norio is tired of his son wasting his life away and encourages the young upstart to face his future by cleaning out his aunt's apartment. Shou was unaware that he had a long lost aunt, and the news that she’s been murdered comes as something of a surprise. The apartment has been empty since her death, but for the thousand memories decorating the hard wood floor, and Shou soon discovers that his aunt's life was far from the mundane existence he had been living since he left home.
We are first introduced to Matsuko (a career defining performance from Miki Nakatani) as an overweight bag-lady dead on the riverbank, the clues in her apartment lead us on an off beat, far-out, unconventional and dare I say it - quirky journey through the life and times of a very eventful character. Along the way she becomes a teacher, prostitute, murderer, bad sister and all-encompasing magnet for abusive boyfriends the town over. But hey, don’t worry about the doom and gloom, Memories of Matsuko is told with relentless charm and musical interludes a plenty – in fact it’s so playful, you’ll never look at misery in the same way again.
The message is perhaps confusing, setting out to give lost spirit Shou a sense of direction. A direction that comprises of pulling comical faces, meeting the wrong people, throwing away a good career, selling yourself to make ends meet, rejecting everybody that tries to help and dying alone on the riverbank knowing that you did your best... to fuck things up. Oh, and don't forget to sing and dance because in this candy coloured world everybody goes out the same way. Like I said, not remotely gloomy at all. In fact, I think I hear a song coming on. The fact that Matsuko still finds her way home and succeeds in making her father smile, while Shou still learns that valuable life lesson, is testament to the creative prowess of Tetsuya Nakashima.
Tetsuya paints a tantalising picture, drowning the screen in vibrant colours and surreal images, think Amelie and you wont go far wrong. The performances are strong throughout, not just from our leading lady, but from the vast array of supporting players that keep the film moving at breakneck speed. It's been a while since I witnessed such an irresistible collection of madcap creations, well, unless you compare the film to Nakashima’s other work of course.
Memories Of Matsuko is a beautiful tale - bewitching, intoxicating and persistently tragic. In Nakashima’s world however, tragedy has never felt so uplifting. Animation and CGI combine to dizzying effect, bringing the characters and dance numbers to life with sparkle and vigour. It’s difficult to explain just how good it looks on Blu-Ray, though the words ‘positively stunning’ come to mind. Clear, crisp, colourful and vibrant - Memories of Matsuko was made for high definition TV screens.
The Blu-Ray disk comes complete with an insightful 30 minute making of documentary, storyboard to film comparison, interview with soundtrack composer Gabriele Roberto and a selection of Third Window Film trailers. I can’t emphasis enough just how much you need this film in your Blu-Ray collection.
Not only is it a heart warming, humorous and touching celebration of life, but it’s also one of the best examples of why we all need high definition in our lives. Memories of Matsuko is a treat for the eyes and mind, a visual feast that engages on so many levels. I really do feel a song coming on…