The film follows the last 2 decades in the life of Hyakken Uchinda, a writer and teacher who retires in the war years of the early 1940's. His students venerate him in his old age, and join him and his family each year for... more » a ritual birthday party, asking "are you ready?" to which he answers, "not yet," acknowledging that death may be near, but life still goes on. Kurosawa is considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and this, his final and touching film, is the perfect ending to a lifetime of cinematic achievements.« less
"Shortly into this movie, I realized that the sensei may have been a real person in history, but Kurosawa selected his life to represent his own. Metaphorically, Kurosawa was the great sensei of the global film industry. This film released just a few years before his death carried a message to all his beloved fans and students, "Madadayo (Not yet)." Kurosawa died when I was in Tokyo working at the Pacific Stars and Stripes. The week of his death, I had asked my editor to try to arrange an interview with the great film master. Sadly, before I could met him, he passed on. So, it was that when I realized the message of this, his final film, was the he was not ready to pass on, I cried. Subtle, sublime, personal, this film is not designed for average viewers. For devoted Kurosawa fans, it will be a touching farewell. For those with a less intimate relationship with the film master, it may seem slow and unmoving. I, however, was very moved. Kurosawa's passing is truly a loss to the world of media imagery."
Interesting Cultural Portrait
Steven Carroll | Sammamish, WA USA | 07/26/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think this film would be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in Japanese culture. This film depicts the lifelong relationship between teacher and student over a course of many years. I think this is the kind of movie only an old man could make, but its implications for the younger generation are strong. It strikes me as the kind of film to watch when you are young and then watch again when you are old to see how your perception of it changes. On a purely practical note, this is a movie to be enjoyed when you are in a reflective mood and not looking for strong action or really even plotting. This is a film about character and ideas and those looking for samurai battles will be very disappointed. Also, an important thing to know before watching the movie is that the whole "madadayo" ritual they perform is part of a japanese game of hide and seek. This is explained at the end of the film, but of course the original japanese audience would have known this cultural detail and so i think it would be less confusing for the Western viewer to know this in advance."
Deeper than it seems
Susan Hinojoza | Union City, CA USA | 03/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a fan of Kurosawa, I knew that I had to see his last film. The mixed reviews concerned me a bit. After viewing it, however, I am convinced it is one of his greatest works.On the surface, this is a story about a beloved and somewhat child-like (in a positive way) professor in the autumn of his life. It is a touching and at times seemly overly sentimental story. There are some laugh out loud moments--the scenes with the horse, the professor's attempts to foil robbers and a student doggedly reciting all of the train stops along an extremely long route come to mind. The professor is quick-witted and warm, the acting exceptional. Many reviewers have already given more details on the plot, so I invite you to watch and look deeper. Although I am not one given to finding allegory everywhere, there are many subtleties here that I assume are completely intentional. A director as great as Kurosawa does not randomly throw in images. So consider...The country of Japan has been torn by war, and so has the professor. We see the results of air raids--the Professor's own home and much of his town has been destroyed. The American occupation is causing changes in the Japanese way of life. Although there is no open criticism, the brief scenes involving Americans and their influences (watch for them!) show you that the Japanese characters find them incomprehensible and aren't sure what to make of them. Additionally, as the film progresses, there is a subtle influx of Western influences-more English words, American customs etc. The Professor is caught between the old Japan and the new. The scene between the kindly neighbor and the callous new landowner illustrate this.Nowhere is this conflict apparent than in the scene with the missing cat. At first, I thought that it was a little ridiculous to devote so much of the film the the search for a missing cat, and I thought it was over the top in sentimentality. But then, we are shown a few scenes of the professor imagining his lost cat trapped in a bombed-out ruin. Although the war has been over for a few years, the ruins are still smoldering-as if the bombs were recently dropped. The cat is trying to get home, but is confused and frightened. I realized the lost cat must be an symbol for Japanese people caught in the turmoil of a war-torn country in transition. What ultimately saves the Professor is the love and devotion of his students as well as his innate zest for life. When the Professor recovers from his depression, the once destroyed buildings in the background have been rebuilt. Can't be an accident!There are so many other subtleties here. Watch for the changing role of women, the use of English and German words, the clothing styles, the role of children, music etc. I believe you'll agree this is a great film."
One of the best movies I have seen.
lemonzest | Pennsylvania | 04/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this movie at a Japanese film festival, and I was immediately entraced. It is the first Kurosawa films I have ever seen, and it has left me longing to watch the rest of his work. As other reviewers more eloquent than I have said, this film presents a touching look at the relationship between teachers and students, but in unique historical and personal circumstances. With World War II as its backdrop, "Madadayo" sticks to the relatively simple life of a high school German teacher and author and the lifelong relationships he has with many of his former students. The depth of the now-adult students' appreciation and friendship for their teacher manifests itself in a yearly celebration of the teacher's life, as well as everyday kindnesses (memorable incidents include the students' worries that the teacher's house is not protected from burglars and their efforts to 'correct' this problem by breaking into his house and finding out for themselves how the teacher will handle it, and my particular favorite, the loss of the teacher's pet cat and the heartbreaking emotions this brings to the characters). This movie is not epic, nor does it contain much action. It does, however, have a lot of heart (which is a somewhat corny phrase, but truly fits this film). I give it my highest recommendations."
Grow old in peace and love
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 03/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Madadayo" is an unflinchingly sentimental film, in the same vein as "It's a Wonderful Life." It is a story that only an old man could have told, dealing with the love of growing old, and being surrounded by people who love you. There is no bitterness in the Professor's growing old, only the satisfaction of a life well lived, that is not over yet. It is an incredible, moving piece of art.The story is so simple, and deeply personal that connection is easy. Starting at age 60, when the Professor is "officially an old man," his former students through him a birthday party. At the party, two things happen. First, he must drink a very large glass of beer in one breath. Second, his students ask him "Maadha kai?" ("Are you ready?"), and he sings back "Madadayo" ("Not yet.") Not yet ready to die.Like the characters in the story, I too loved the professor, and felt that something would be missing from the world, the day "Madadayo" does not come ringing back in response. There are no villains, no life or death struggles, no sharp pains. Just wonderful people being excellent to each other, and making the best out of their brief time alive."Madadayo" is also deeply rooted in Japanese culture and sympathies, and this is the first Kurosawa film that I have seen where I feel I have a deeper understanding due to my time spent living in Japan. The enkais, the scenery, the values, it is all familiar. And familiarity and nostalgia are largely what "Madadayo" is about."