Subarashiki Nichiyobi (One Wonderful Sunday) Reviews
This is a wonderful romance story. Yeah, my heart has grown soft since I started working at Thomas Video. I like when love overcomes economic strain to become more beautiful than anything those Disney princesses can offer me. These are real people dealing with real problems. As unique as Kurosawa always makes his films, he always has this very strong grasp on the human condition, which is probably why I love his film so much.
This is a heart-wrenching film. The story is very straightforward. As the title suggests, the entire movie takes place over the course of this one Sunday. While some parts go absolutely marvelously, there wouldn't be much of a story if the relationship wasn't placed in danger of disaster. But these disasters are things that really affect couples. You hate and love the man at the same time for being so weak and human. You root for him to get out of himself and see what he has around him.
The best part of this film is the end. Yes, it could be considered a little camp, but I would have to disagree with that statement. It is the perfect end to this film. I'm not going to spill too much about the end, but there is this surge of an almost supernatural life to the way this movie ends. Almost like Peter Pan asking the children to clap their hands. I interacted in both cases. I'm not ashamed. I begged for this movie to end happily for these characters because they really deserved it.
Kurosawa really warmed my heart with this movie. I'm not saying it is his best film. Not by a long shot. But it is an absolutely beautiful movie and it is the best of the Post-war set.
On my cinematic journey through Akira Kurosawa's films this is his best film so far, its massage for the people most effected by World War 2 has long since passed, but it can still be applied to us in this day and age, as well as pushing the limit on sexualism and relationship in films post-war. A sweet dream like film (all these thing I am stating now are fairly well tolled in the film so I will be stating the obvious) following a young couple who are broke as a joke on a average Sunday that turns out to be there greatest moment in there live's as the world throws everything at there fragile relationship, a depressed war veteran is being challenged with looking after his girlfriend, but some how there youthful properties in there personalities are sheltered through and give them a saving grace with a helping hand by a round applause they make it through.
On there adventure to the Zoo they look at each animal and give a description how they feel and what they seem like, in this scene they are stating the different types of people around them including themselves using the animals, in the scene they describe a weird looking bird and reference it with a similarly weird-slightly nuts guy they met earlier, Bear cubs, innocent and cute- this is the young girl because of her key-ring of a tiny bear she holds in her handbag through out the film and of course the guy a less kinder and more concrete person formed by war is an almost complete opposite from his lady-friend who is more like a child-youthful- he is compared to a a depressed looking Dear. I have to say this film chipped out a tiny piece of titanium in my man-armor my making tear-up not because it was emotionally sad (although it is quite sad), what made me teary eyed was the gleeful happiness of the two and there funny encounters with all the other zoo-like people. Funny and faith restoring film, Kurosawa has earned some director points.
Just the kindest film without being to corny or sappy, so evenly weighed out with it's camera work making it flow by quickly as-well as suspending it in the mind with it gorgeous dreamy scenes that look like fine paintings, each scene perfectly captured by the black and white film.
The ending of this movie, I must confess, is a bit "I do believe in fairies!" My understanding is that neither American nor Japanese audiences were terribly fond of it, but the French responded better. I'm not generally a huge fan of breaking the fourth wall in movies unless it's broken all along--Rob's monologue with the camera throughout [i]High Fidelity[/i], for example, or the narration in films noir. However, to have the characters turn to the camera in a single scene and demand that we respond to them in some way takes me out of the story. It kind of makes me feel creepy, to be honest. I'm well aware that the basic premise of fiction is a kind of voyeurism; we are watching people's lives, often in places where they wouldn't want us to. I get that. However, I can pretend that isn't true if they ignore us, and if they don't, they're inviting us in. But to have them notice us in a single scene while ignoring us before? Awkward.
It is post-war Tokyo. Yuzo (Isao Numasaki) is a veteran; the years since the war ended have not been kind to him. Even before the war, his girlfriend was Masako (Chieko Nakakita). They now meet on Sundays, the only day they can, and spend the day together. On this particular Sunday, all they have to spend is thirty-five yen. I don't know what the conversion rate was, but I do know that it wasn't a lot of money. Over the last two years, however, they have learned pretty much everything that can be done in Tokyo for not much money. Masako is still cheerful and full of hope and dreams. She reminds Yuzo of their plan to build the Hyacinth Cafe, a restaurant with good coffee and pastries for reasonable prices. He tells Masako not to dream, that there is no place in their world for dreams. They play ball with some boys, go to the zoo, and hope to see a concert of the music that they heard on their first date. They also quarrel and make up.
This wasn't Kurosawa's first film; he actually got his start during the war. However, this is early work of his, well before the great costume epics for which he is generally known in the US. I honestly kind of prefer the modern films, the films where he is exploring what it means to live in Tokyo in the years and eventually decades after the war. There are signs of the American occupation, but not many, and there are no American characters in the movie. They aren't important here. What matters is what the war has done to this young couple. Oh, I'm sure part of the issue is that I don't really know Japanese history, and this is an era where I get all the historical references. However, these are people trying to find their place in a changed world, and that's interesting no matter what world it is. When Yuzo and Masako first met and shared their dreams, they did so in a world where Japan was a conqueror, not conquered. Everything has changed, and Kurosawa knows that as well as his characters.
It's also worth noting that Tokyo, in this movie, is still in the process of rebuilding. When Yuzo and Masako are sharing a daydream about their cafe, they do so among ruins. There is a zoo again, and concerts, and streetcars, but there is also rubble. The most successful people we see are either black marketeers or Westernized in some way. Yuzo and Masako are trying to get by in a more traditional way, and it isn't working out for them. It is almost as though people like them are the ruined bits of the city, the bits which haven't come back yet. Tokyo is still rebuilding, and until it does, there is no place for people of honour and dignity. There is still much to be rebuilt, and it is only when everything achieves a new normal that people like Yuzo and Masako will thrive over ticket scalpers and gangsters. Now, yes, that will eventually mean Westernizing in ways that haven't always been very good for Japanese culture. But it's better than living sixteen to a house.
At the same time in the United States, veterans were going to college and starting businesses. This is the advantage of winning, or one of them--you can provide for your veterans. Pride in service is all very well, but the US was giving $20 a week for a year to its veterans, and the Japanese simply couldn't do that. By the sound of it, the Hyacinth Cafe wasn't a bad idea; certainly I quite like Masako's colour sense. However, I'm not even sure that the Japanese military received all its pay from the time of the war. I rather suspect inflation had caught up with them, too, and what pay they got wasn't worth much. I've been reading quite a lot lately about the US home front during World War II, and much of it discusses war marriages and so forth, and what people did afterward. The people in the US ended the war with great hope, in part because they'd won and in part because the country was hardly damaged at all. There was a place for our Yuzos and Masakos, and we were the luckier for it.
Both Yuzo and Masako are struggling to make ends meet as office workers earning meager pay. Yuzo is a former soldier sharing a tiny apartment with a roommate. Masako still lives with her large family in a "tiny house". He is the more pragmatic of the two but is becoming more and more morose about his financial situation (which doesn't appear likely to improve any time soon.) He smokes cigarette butts he finds on the sidewalk because he cannot afford to buy his own. She, on the other hand, is the more cheerful and optimistic of the two - able to foresee a much brighter and happier future. Masako can even put a positive spin on it when Yuzo notices the holes on the soles of her shoes - "the better they are to drain when they get wet."
Early in the film, Masako tries to persuade Yuzo to look at a model home. He is reluctant to enter. For Yuzo, the selling price of the home (100,000 yen) is a seemingly unobtainable figure. Meanwhile, Masako imagines the types of furniture she will place in each room. Yuzo scolds her for being an unrealistic dreamer, "We have to face reality to survive in a world like this." But Masako counters, "This is the kind of world where you need dreams the most..."
They next inquire about a small apartment that is up for rent. In one of the films more humorous moments - the apartment manager all but discourages the couple from renting. As the couple try to figure out if they can afford to live there - they are distracted by some kids playing baseball, prompting Yuzo to join in on the fun.
This baseball scene is something one can very easily connect with if you are a fan of baseball. The japanese kids yell the exact same "phrases" as their american counterparts. What really surprised me was Kurosawa's choice of music here - after a wayward baseball wrecks the sign hung near a store. All the kids scatter, of course...but the music is from Bizet's "Carmen" - the very same music used by director Michael Ritchie in his 1976 BAD NEWS BEARS - one of my all time favorite baseball flicks!!!
Very memorable too is the scene where amidst the rubble and ruin, Yuzo and Masako pretend to own a cafe. There is also a playground scene - with swings - that foreshadow Kurosawa's marvelous film IKURU.
These are some of the film's happier moments...but the mood will swing the other way too as Yuzo's mood becomes grimmer as the day progresses - as the reality of Tokyo's economic straits becomes more evident to the viewer. They encounter a hungry street waif. They have a run in with some street toughs scalping concert tickets . Yuzo's plan to visit a wartime buddy who now owns a nightclub goes terribly astray when the maitre'd mistakes Yuzo for a...(sorry, this will probably be a spoiler)!!!
When the couple finally retreats to Yuzo's apartment is when Kurosawa is at his cinematic best here with long stetches without dialogue. It becomes heartbreaking to watch as when Masako - the seemingly eternal optimist - surrenders to tears.
This is considered one of Kurosawa's lesser film - but I disagree. It's billed as a neo-realist film and does remind one of the style of THE BICYCLE THIEVES or UMBERTO D - but this film predates them both. One of the characters will break the "fourth wall" and address the audience directly - which may or may not work for you - but I understand Kurosawa's intent.
I think this is one fabulous film with much food for thought!!!
2/26 - One Wonderful Sunday (Kurosawa, 1947, Rental): 7.5
2/27 - Rambo: First Blood (Kotcheff, 1982, Rental): 5.5
2/28 - Control (Corbijn, 2008, Download): 8.5
2/28 - There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007, Download): 9