"Rhapsody in August," which plays for one day only at the Charles, is unlikely to add much luster to the legend of the great Akira Kurosawa, but it's a surprisingly gentle, affecting movie.
It's very much the movie of a man haunted by history -- or rather, a particular moment in history, 11:15 a.m., Aug. 9, 1945, when an American B-29 dropped a nuke on Nagasaki, Japan. If you ask, I'll defend the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, on the grounds that it probably saved a million American and Japanese lives. But if you ask further about the bombing of Nagasaki, all you'll get is embarrassed silence. I think the lesson didn't have to be repeated, certainly not three days later before the implications of the first bomb had set in.
The story is deceptively simple. Some young Japanese cousins (two sets of two) are spending the summer with their grandmother, a Nagasaki survivor who lost her husband in the blast. The kids -- in jeans and docksiders and MIT T-shirts -- don't really get it. Eventually, they go into the city and begin to understand the horror that unfolded there. One brilliant image: the four of them confront a jungle gym that was half melted by the heat and bent backwards by the blast: it stands there, in perpetual disintegration, recording the instant of detonation.