Memories of Matsuko (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/06/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Enjoyable, stylishly directed and emotionally engaging Japanese drama with a terrific central performance by Miki Nakatani.

What's it all about?
Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima (who made the recent Kamikaze Girls), Memories of Matsuko stars Eita as Shou, a 20-something slacker who learns that his father has hidden the existence of his estranged 53-year-old aunt Matsuko (Miki Nakatani) and that she has recently been murdered. Tasked with cleaning up her rubbish-strewn apartment, Shou becomes fascinated with Matsuko's colourful past and sets about tracking down people she knew in order to find out more.

Shou gradually discovers that Matsuko's eventful and tumultuous life included stints as a teacher, a prostitute, a gangster's moll, a murderer, a prisoner and a hairdresser, before ending up as a crazy old hermit. Similarly, her list of friends and lovers includes porn stars, jailbirds, Yakuza gangsters and a series of violent boyfriends.

The Good
As with Kamikaze Girls, Nakashima's direction is extremely stylish and inventive, with brightly coloured cinematography, a strong use of music (several sequences could stand alone as pop videos) and other pop culture references scattered throughout. There are also several unexpected little touches that make the film seem overly chaotic but lend it a certain sense of charm nonetheless, such as the 1950s-style credits sequence or a terrific use of CGI where piles of rubbish bags suddenly become an angry flock of crows.

Miki Nakatani is wonderful in the lead role, delivering a multi-faceted performance that is genuinely moving. In addition, her emotional interactions with the world around her are extremely engaging, from the weird faces she pulls when she's stressed to her habit of singing whenever she's happy.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that it's about twenty minutes too long and emotionally exhausting as a result. Indeed, by the time Matsuko gets her heart broken for the umpteenth time, you'll be wondering how much more you can take.

Worth seeing?
Memories of Matsuko is an enjoyable and engaging Japanese drama that's worth seeing for Nakashima's stylish direction and a superb central performance by Miki Nakatani.

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Content updated: 21/09/2018 00:03

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