Welcome to Akira Kurosawa info!  Log in or Register?

Madadayo: Wordplay

  •   link

    Ugetsu

    From my understanding of Richies comments on the film, the dialogue is full of clever and completely untranslatable wordplay and banter – presumably the subtitles catch only a fraction of the subtle witticisms that regularly crack up the former pupils. I also see from wikipedia that little that Hakken Uchida wrote is translated into English. The specifics of the sensei/pupil relationship are of course one of those very ‘japanese’ cultural things that is hard for outsiders to understand (at least it its more subtle forms). I also couldn’t help thinking that this movie seems more Ozu-like (or even Mizoguchi-like in that wonderful scene where the four seasons run past in a matter of seconds) in tone and technique.

    Kurosawa seems, therefore, to have deliberately chosen a subject and a script that is opaque to non-japanese speakers and is firmly rooted in what is often seen as traditional Japanese formalism. Is this, ultimately, his message in the movie? His response to all those who accused him of being ‘too western’, ‘too commercial’? He is reclaiming his own ‘Japaneseness’ in his final statement?

      link

    Vili Maunula

    Indeed, it seems that the dialogue is quite much funnier in Japanese than the subtitles can really begin to convey. I watched the film yesterday from the new(ish) Yume Pictures release, and while I applaud the effort, the translation did have quite some trouble dealing with the puns. (Plus I think that the picture is slightly cropped.)

    Kurosawa himself actually acknowledged the problem that Madadayo‘s language would pose to a foreigner. Writes Galbraith:

    One of he challenges Kurosawa faced was in translating Uchida’s warm humor, consisting of a form of rakugo, a style of Japanese writing that plays on singularly Japanese words and expressions, to the screen. “My translator has been trying hard to find English equivalents for the jokes,” Kurosawa said, “but it’s very difficult. But I think foreign audiences will understand the humor of Uchida’s character — he was a very funny man.” (624-625)

    Of course, it is not just the language, but also the culturally bound references that form something of a barrier here. Take for example the beginning and the end of the film: one’s 60th birthday (called kanreki), which is pretty much where the film begins, is considered something like a second birth, and the beginning of old age. The 77th birthday (kiju), which ends the film, is also highly symbolic, and stands for happiness and long life.

    Or, consider how Hojoki plays a central part in the film. I would say that a familiarity with the book will certainly add to the experience.

    It would be great if some bright bilingual film student would write a thesis on these matters in Madadayo. Without something like that, much of the dialogue in the film seems somewhat impenetrable for us non-Japanese, and we are perhaps left looking at the proceedings much in the way the American soldiers are puzzled about one of the birthday parties (around 1:04:20).

    As for whether Kurosawa is deliberately trying to do something like “reclaim his Japaneseness”, I don’t know. I think that, whatever some critics would suggest, all of his films are pretty Japanese. Indeed, I wouldn’t say that Madadayo is necessarily more Japanese than, say, Ran or Kagemusha.

      link

    Ugetsu

    As for whether Kurosawa is deliberately trying to do something like “reclaim his Japaneseness”, I don’t know. I think that, whatever some critics would suggest, all of his films are pretty Japanese. Indeed, I wouldn’t say that Madadayo is necessarily more Japanese than, say, Ran or Kagemusha.

    I don’t disagree with that at all, I’ve always felt (especially since reading Joan Mellon), that both Japanese and Western critics have put far too much emphasis on his western leanings. What I was thinking was that Kurosawa may have been attracted to the story specifically because this was a movie that was devoid of any western influences, and was largely untranslatable (in the broadest sense). It would, in effect, force his critics to address the movie solely on japanese terms.

      link

    Vili Maunula

    Ugetsu: What I was thinking was that Kurosawa may have been attracted to the story specifically because this was a movie that was devoid of any western influences, and was largely untranslatable (in the broadest sense). It would, in effect, force his critics to address the movie solely on japanese terms.

    It is certainly possible that this was a factor in Kurosawa’s choice of tackling this particular story.

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)



Leave a comment

Log in or Register to post a comment!