Memories of Matsuko | directed by Tetsuya Nakashima | Based on the novel by Muneki Yamada
Memories of Matsuko is one of my favourite movies. It is visually stunning and evocative. Complex, poignant, and profoundly real, yet at the same time surreal. The story follows a young man as he delves into the life of a woman he did not know, yet knew, and… no, I can’t do this, I am just not one of those people who can summarise a movie. Nor am I someone who can give reviews. I can tell you if I enjoyed something or not… just about… but I have no idea if my impression of it will be the one you will have. And to be completely blunt, I’ve watched quite a few movies which I was repeatedly told were fantastic… and I wish I hadn’t watched them. I prefer happening upon a film I’ve never heard of and that way I can discover it without anyone else’s opinion influencing me.
When I watched this film I did not know what to expect, I’d never heard of it, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see it. It was on late one night, I had nothing else to do. This film drew me in deeply, and hit a sweet spot in my psyche. It made me think, feel, and travel in my imagination. When it ended, I felt transformed. And it has haunted me so very subtly ever since.
Life is a strange thing. Who are we, why are we here, why do we exist, and what are we supposed to do with this existence once we have it. No one really knows, but everyone has a theory. Some have multiple theories. You can plan your life out in minute detail, or live off the cuff. Be in control, be controlled, or be completely out of control. So many options, nuances, and grey areas. The meaning of life is, in many ways, life itself. We find out what it is all about as we live it. And we each live it very differently from everyone else, even when sometimes it looks like we’re all following the same How to Live Life guide book.
Memories of our lives are even stranger. What’s your first real memory? I mean one you actually know is yours, a first hand experience, rather than a memory created by stories other people have told you about yourself which you’ve absorbed as being your own memory.
My very first memory is of sliding down a pool slide into the arms of a beautiful and smiling woman. She was… who was she? I think she was the woman in charge of looking after the children in the kiddie pool of an hotel in Hawaii. The details are fuzzy. All I remember was feeling utter blissful joy for a second, and it imprinted itself upon me. After that Hawaii became a place of joy and I always wanted to live there. The opportunity never arrived, but I indulged my dream by watching Hawii Five-O (the original version), my all time favourite TV show (Steve McGarrett became my role model), and Magnum PI (Oh, how I wanted to live in that house!).
I have my mother’s version of the trip which took our family to Hawaii. My mother’s stories are tortuous dramas, usually with her as the martyred heroine and damsel in permanent distress, and everyone else as monsters. Occasionally a hero pops up, but they don’t live for very long. Heroes have a way of pissing off damsels in distress very easily.
I do have an earlier memory of that trip. It is on a slide again. Why slides? All I can remember is being furious, sitting at the top of a slide in a playground in a park in Japan. I’d had enough of whatever was going on, and perhaps I thought the ladder going up to the top of the slide was a way out. Snakes and ladders… I used to play that. Damn snakes!
I wonder what made those memories impress themselves upon my young and very absorbent mind, so much so that I actually remembered them and not everything else. Perhaps it was due to an emotional surge of the unforgettable kind.
Anyway, Memories of Matsuko, reminded me of how crazy and unpredictable life can be, how letting chaos happen and going with it can be good and bad, and sometimes good things are bad and bad things are good, and how ultimately it doesn’t really matter if you lived your life in an orderly way, or in a messy way. It’s life, you live it, and then it’s over. Maybe you’ll be remembered, maybe you’ll just vanish. And maybe someone will discover traces of you, and be inspired, and through them, through how they use the inspiration they got from you, their version of you, you’ll live on. As a muse. A memory…