Memories Of Matsuko

Japan (2006), 130 minutes
Starring: Miki Nakatani, Eita, Yusuke Iseya, Asuka Kurosawa
Reviewer: Jeremy Silman
Genre: Drama
Rating: 3

An obese bag lady is found beaten to death, her family is told and her father, unable to deal with the aftermath, asks his disenfranchised son to put her final affairs in order. This film, beautifully acted and more than a little thought provoking, could have been terrific but failed for two simple reasons: In going over the dead woman’s life we are led to believe that her life had meaning. Though mental illness doesn’t mean your life won’t have meaning, we have to wonder what’s so special if that life is filled with nothing but misery, heartbreak, bad/suicidal choices, and vacuity.

This is the second time the Japanese have given credence to such a human mess (the other film where this happened is Vibrator). Indeed, when her father told his son that “Her life was wasted, useless.” we were supposed to rail against that and scream that “No! Her life meant something!” But did it?

We are also led to believe that she was let down by every male she ever met. This list includes her students (when she was teaching), her lovers (when she was a prostitute, a hairdresser, a yakuza moll, and a murderer), her friends (criminals, porn stars, etc), and even her father.

Sorry, but modern culture seems to have thrown personal responsibility by the wayside, and this woman made the bed she laid in. In fact, when her friends tried to pull her away from abusive mates, she would attack them, ignore what they were trying to say, and refuse to leave. In the end, her life was indeed wasted – a bitter, misery filled affair that lingered far longer than she probably wanted it to.

A bitter disappointment, since I expected so much more from director Nakashima (the maker of the wonderful Kamikaze Girls). Ultimately, great performances and Nakashima’s glitzy style couldn’t make up for the emotional sinkhole that was Matsuko’s life.