Friday 18 July 2008

Memories of Matsuko

This was a beautiful and very moving film, so I can't believe I've taken a whole week to get around to writing about it. But, the mark of a fantastic film for me is that I can actually remember it a week later! So here is what I thought...

Memories of Matsuko is the sad story of a woman's journey through a hard life, full of disappointments, betrayals and broken dreams. We follow Matsuko through her 60's childhood where she was overshadowed by her ill sister and tried constantly to impress her dour father. Then we follow her career path from school teacher to prostitute and porn star to hairdresser, and see her in prison along the way. The common thread which runs through her life is a succession of abusive boyfriends, and she's drawn to them like a fly to you-know-what.

In some ways, this was an incredibly harrowing and bleak melodrama, but I haven't said yet that it was a musical. Yes, a musical! With pop songs and Busby-Berkeley-esque dance sections which elevated the mood of the film. Just when you think that all hope is lost, along comes another song, and Matsuko is singing and dancing again. One of the highlights is "Happy Wednesday", with our heroine dressed like a 50's housewife in a bright kitschy kitchen with day-glo flowers all around. It's the sharp contrast of the bleak hopelessness of Matsuko's situation, against her faithful and forgiving approach to life, that makes the film so touching. It steers away from sentimentality, by showing her as a normal, flawed human being, who tries to deal with everything the world throws at her, slips into a downward spiral and strives to crawl back up.

If you don't shed at least one tear at some point in watching Memories of Matsuko, then you have a heart made of stone.

Watch this on YouTube for some of the best bits: Memories of Matsuko on YouTube

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