Rhapsody In August (1991)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

Original title:  Hachi-gatsu no Kyoshikiyoku

Japan, 1991Feature Film Enterprise II, Kurosawa Production Co., Shôchiku Eiga.  Screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, based on the novel Nabe no Naka by .  Cinematography by , .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by Akira Kurosawa.  

The penultimate film by the great Akira Kurosawa, here putting as much power into the subtlety of family interactions that he previously gave to magnificent battle scenes.  He also returns to the concern with the atomic bomb that held its sway over I Live In Fear, with a group of children visiting their grandmother in Nagasaki while their parents visit a dying relative in Hawaii.  That relative, who has only become to known to them recently, is their grandmother’s elder brother who left for the tropical island in 1920 and has become a wealthy pineapple tycoon.  The old lady’s children are obsessed with the financial benefits of the situation, while their kids become fascinated, horrified and moved by the tales they learn about their grandfather’s death in the bombing thanks to their grandmother sharing her memories of the experience.  The situation is complicated by the fact that their wealthy great-uncle had an American wife who bore a now grown half-American son (Richard Gere), who also comes to visit and brings the painful memory of two countries once locked in a grisly conflict into the forefront.  What Kurosawa finds in all this interaction and revisiting of harsh memories is grace, forgiveness and beauty, rendered with intelligent delicacy and never for a moment simple or patronizing.  Scenes of bright landscapes portent with dark memories are as deeply affecting as shots of memorials made from metals twisted on that fateful day, while the human figures are deeply moving for the respect for the past constantly mixed in a balance with hope for the future.  This is a wonderful film.

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