MST3: Akira Kurosawa’s Rhapsody in August

Three is a magic number when it comes to consuming pop culture. What’s the point in experiencing great art if you got no one to share it with? On the flipside, how can I share my cornucopic (did I just use l=a=n=g=u=a=g=e to make up word?) amounts of Haterade when I am subjected to whack ass moments?

Two is cool but you either have consensus or split-decision and when it comes to that good art that leaves you wondering if this is just zeitgeist or the real deal, it’s best to have a third party lend their voice. And there you have it- the magic number.

Last night the MST3, Sunny, Barb and I, watched Kurosawa’s Rhapsody in August. A movie I thought for sure would suck when I heard that Richard Gere makes an appearance. Well, the movie did suck a bit but – surprise! – mostly when Richard Gere was not on screen.

The difference between this and other Akira Kurosawa films is that where his other epics have these fine threads of emotional manipulation, camera tricks and lighting composition woven so tightly into the script and acting that they are near invisible. With Rhapsody in August, we don’t have thread but butcher twine and badly wrapped butcher twine at that, something Boricuas would call Un Pastel Malamarado.

The beginning of the film has an elderly Japanese woman surrounded by her oh-so-hip global culture loving grandkids. How do I know this? Cuz they are all wearing too tight jeans and various American t-shirts highlighting UCAL, Brooklyn and the Yankees, that’s how. The script continues with that same theme as we are giving the tourist walk through Nagasaki and are told details about the A-Bomb that we could find on any bus tour; the very height of expository dialogue at its most monotone.

Things take an interesting turn with the arrival of Gere as the American cousin that no one knew about since grandma was one of 12 and cannot accurately remember the existence of an elder brother who happens to be Gere’s father. Her grandkids could care less about this since all they see is a chance to eat some real pineapple (read: be down with American happa culture).

Gere does a fine job as the outsider who wants nothing more than to spend some quiet time with a part of his past rather than trying to make amends for his past which seems to be the hang up with the kid’s parents who don’t seem to be sure what to make of grandma and her history.

Kurosawa being Kurosawa is still able to surprise us in the end with a moving and memorable final scene that resolves nothing but is so visually stunning we can’t help but be awed. Too bad no one was able to convince him to shorten the film to 40 minutes cuz if they did this would be another classic.

Then again, those extra 50 minutes gave the MST3 a chance to make fun of some ass-eating-jeans, Spandua Ballet hair and an incest scene that could only make sense in the most liberal of Oswego, NY workfarms.

You should only see this after you’ve experienced some of Kurosawa’s best: Seven Samurai, Stray Dog, Rashomon, and The Bad Sleep Well; or if you believe that Richard Gere with short hair equals box office wizardry.

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  1. I think we may have messed up with our terminology: they weren’t “ass-eating jeans.” To be more specific, that was a pants-munching ass.

  2. sunny, thanks for the clarification. i will be sure to use the correct phrase when i review Superman Returns.

    as for hateration, wait till MST3 takes a peek at Rashomon (in the hood).

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