Wildly inventive and visually rich, Tetsuya Nakashima’s ebullient, dramatic Memories of Matsuko is likely to have the Marmite effect – you’ll either love it or hate it. Stylistically dipping its toe into ’50’s Technicolor and melodrama, as well as the weird, wacky and irreverent world of Japanese pop culture, it’s a movie that constantly challenges you with a narrative that reels backwards and forwards in time.
When Matsuko Kawajiri is murdered, Shou is asked by his father to clear out his aunt’s apartment. Knowing nothing about her life, Shou finds himself drawn to the fantastical, magical, and tragic story that sees Matsuko become a school teacher, massage parlour girl, murderer, prison inmate, Yakuza moll and ultimately an unhinged bag lady.
It’s a daring movie – richly rewarded with nine Japanese Academy Award nominations, winning three – with visuals that will knock your socks off and scenes that move from humour to heartbreak in the time it takes for a smile to fade. For some its pace and vivid palette will make it a sickly sweet confection, lacking a conventional story approach, but for those who like to be tantalised, and enjoy wilful, unregulated cinema, it’s an absolute must-see.
EXTRAS ** A very short selection includes a 30-minute making of… documentary with contributions from all the main participants – with many of the lead actors describing how terrifying the director’s reputation was. There’s also a 10-minute feature on storyboard-to-screen translation, which gives an overview of how some of the more complex dance and fantasy sequences were created.