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The best romance movie ever made! With the best movie score ever composed!
I adore everything about this story. Brando, what can I say, yum. Charming, conflicted and in the mist of an intrinsic evolution that leads him to making a stand for what is right, and honorable in the name of friendship and love.
A progressive romance tale for the ages.
Director Joshua Logan crafts a thoughtful romance story in Japan that touches on many relevant issues such as racism, interracial marriage, military code, tradition, and real love. Sayonara may be from 1957, but It is a movie before its time as it goes out of its way to show you the humanity of all sides and genuine love across race and country lines. The screenplay from writer Paul Osborn is truly ahead of his time. I am stunned at how profound and progressive Sayonara remains to this day.
Marlon Brando delivers a fascinating role as an ignorant country boy from Virginia that learns to appreciate, and indeed, love Japan's country, people, and culture. He is so far removed from the usual thoughtful intellectual Brando characters that Brando's performance is all the more impressive. He demonstrates the character's gradual shift in ideals. It's a wonderful role for Brando that marks his last great role in his untouchable 1950's era.
Similarly, actress Miiko Taka stars as the leading lady Hana-ogi. Her English is perfect as she delivers the most endearing monologue of the movie to Brando during their first dinner together. Her singing is lovely and her dancing is mesmerizing. Taka gave us the performance of a lifetime in Sayonara.
Additionally, Sayonara holds several incredible supporting performances. Namely, Patricia Owens, Miyoshi Umeki, Red Buttons, and Ricardo Montalbán. They each represent another side of the racial relationships occurring in 1950's Japan. They are so sincere and sympathetic in their own way.
Musically, Franz Waxman composed the most lovely score for Sayonara. It is romantic and atmospheric. It only chimes in at the most sweet moments. I really enjoyed how pretty Sayonara's score sounds.
In all, Sayonara is a must see romance film. It has proven to be timeless and continues to be relevant. All that's left to say is Sayonara!
Probing forthrightly racism and prejudice against interracial marriages, this Oscar-winning sweeping military romance of a dashing Air Force hero and a striking Japanese traditional trouper is well-meaning but idealistically hopeful.
In 1957, for mainstream audiences, this was considered progressive. Whike it is a sensitive intelligent story, beautifully shot, with good performances, it dates badly and is even embarrassing now. Great and mysogenist attention is brought to All-American white guys marrying submissive Japanese women. The greatest hypocrisy is that when faced with a possible relationship of a white woman with a Japanese man....it fails and insults. Ricardo Montalban, a Mexican actor is cast as a Japanese actor who becomes a confidante of Brando's fiance. Progress in 1957 meant white guys marrying Asian women, but no hint of white women with other races was tolerated. Miyoshi Umeki is lovely, in one of the most ridiculous Oscar winning performances. She has little to do but smile sweetly, bow, and be cute in a few scenes focused on other characters. She has one more effective scene where she reads two lines in a heartbreaking manner. Oscar????!!!!
Brando is good but hammy (his worst quality on screen).
Again, its well made, beautiful to look at, well intentioned, and a great chance for Red Buttons to show he has real talent. But its all so dated and unintentionally insulting it just does not deserve a great rating.
"My woman from Tokyo, she makes me see!" Well, actually, this man's woman is from Kobe, but, hey, the military ostensibly can't even tell the difference between the Koreans and the Japs in this film, because even though this film is set during the Korean Conflict, they're trying to get said woman from Kobe out. You can see the irony in the fact that this '50s Southern man is opposing prejudice, but then again, Marlon Brando apparently improvised the accent. Nevertheless, Japan was, like, ten years ago, folks in this movie, and you need to get over it, because there are plenty of other Asian nations to feud with, and at the rate this film is going, it ought to cover them all by the time the credits roll. There's been, like, a million properties titled "The Long Goodbye", so they could have called this, I don't know, "The Long Sayonara", and let people know what they're in for. That would be such a cliché, but hey, it's no more of a cliché than nicknaming this Air Force act flier "Ace", or an Asian fetish that I don't entirely get. Brando was bi and ended up having 16 kids, so I'm sure there are a lot of things that he was into that wouldn't be interested in, unless, of course, they made a movie out of it, because this film is quite interesting, although the Ace character's name and particular taste in women are not the only things in this film which are a little familiar.
A military drama, a cultural celebration, and a star-crossed romance, this film is refreshing in how it entangles its various themes into a singular vision, but it doesn't do much of anything new with the respective traits, being rather predictable from various angles, with tropes that include histrionics. As a matter of fact, considering how long the film is, it's only a matter of time before it hits histrionics, no matter how mild, but otherwise, a sense of melodrama derives almost entirely from the sentimentality in Joshua Logan's direction, which is mostly resonant in its dramatic atmosphere, until reaching certain tonal excesses that by no means marks the end of the excess in this film. Coming very close to a runtime of two-and-a-half hours, the film is much too blasted long, with draggy and repetitious dialogue pieces, and too much exposition on individual layers in this branched and segmented narrative, leading to lapses in a sense of progression. As if it's not awkward enough that excessive structuring sees plotlines regarding the leads' friend's interracial marriage, an exploration of Japanese culture, and the lead's personal romantic conflicts outstaying their welcome enough for the other segments to lose focus before too long, the central plotline is often so aimless in its excess and meanderings that is takes much too long to get to a predictable point, focusing on the lead losing his original love, then winning over his true love, and then having his love challenged by his peers. Lloyd "Ace" Gruver's love interests receive an unbalanced amount of attention, and Gruver's other affairs, for that matter, are juggled messily, thus, the film is uneven and aimless to the point of being rather unfocused, and that's all fine and good, because the film is ultimately very compelling from most every angle, but, with that said, the excessive length and flimsy structure just go to show you how unspectacular this story is. This is no epic, no matter what the runtime may say, as it's a rather straightforward drama that is driven by dialogue and no extreme dangers, and although the story remains compelling in its concept and in its telling, the predictability, sentimentality, unevenness and aimlessness stress natural shortcomings and shake up momentum, almost to the point of shaking off a rewarding status. The final product tries one's patience, but so long as that patience stands firm, it is sure to be paid off, for although the film is unspectacular with its plot and disjointed with its storytelling, it holds your attention plenty, partly from an aesthetic angle.
For 1957, the film is remarkably good-looking, with Ellsworth Fredericks delivering on cinematography that is relatively crisp in definition, and lush in coloration, while carrying a certain scope that does further justice to an expansive observation of the environments and cultures of Japan, enhanced by Ted Haworth's Oscar-winning art direction. As a celebration of Japanese culture, this film hits the nail on the head in its lavishly distinguishing its environments and the other attractive traits of its setting, so if nothing else holds your attention throughout this overlong affair, it is the striking visual style and haunting visuals, and yet, this story explores much more than a lovely culture. This story may not be especially original, or have the scope or great consequentiality that are insinuated in a runtime of almost two-and-a-half hours, but to say that it is not especially compelling is inaccurate, for there is still plenty of depth to this narrative, of a human nature that is backed by themes regarding prejudice in respectable outfits, and is brought to life by a strong script. Paul Osborn's script is excessive, make no mistake, with aimlessness and unevenness that shake a sense of focus and progression at times, and yet, the point is that it takes its time to flesh out its characters and layers, and along the way, it holds your attention through sharp dialogue and a fair, clever sense of humor, while taking on potentially melodramatic genuineness with a surprising deal of genuineness, more often than not, at least. Again, it's Joshua Logan's sentimental direction which most challenges a sense of dramatic genuineness, and even then, on top of the being charming, the sentimentality is generally controlled enough to get across the weight of this subject matter with resonance, and a sense of importance that could have been lost amidst all of the dragging, which Logan makes more comfortable through tight pacing that keeps up an adequate degree of entertainment value. Really, color, charm and resonance are mostly encompassed in the cast, which is comprised of effective talents ranging from the subtly layered Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki, to the beautiful and humanized Patricia Owens and Miiko Taka, none of whom are quite up to par with leading man Marlon Brando, who delivers on explosive charisma and impeccable line delivery which get you invested into the grounded, likable nature of the flawed Lloyd "Ace" Gruver character, until incorporating a dramatic subtlety and grace that captures the lead's depths better than the storytellers. You can feel Gruver's change of heart when he finds true love, and you can feel his pain when that love and the love of his friends go opposed by figures he holds in high regard, and considering that, with all of its inconsistences, the film hardly every turns its attention away from Gruver, Brando carries this non-epic, but not quite alone, for although there's a lot to challenge one's patience, there is enough to maintain one's investment and make this minimalist, but piercing drama rewarding.
In the end, there is some familiarity and sentimentality to shake the dramatic momentum of this film, while other forms of momentum go shaken up something fierce by an excessive and repetitious structure that begets a sense of unevenness and aimlessness behind a story of very limited scale, thus, nearly two-and-a-half hours don't entirely pay off, but through lavish cinematography, locations and art direction, the cleverly written and genuinely directed telling of a thematically and dramatically important story, and a solid cast from which Marlon Brando stands out, there is enough payoff to make Joshua Logan's "Sayonara" a rewarding military and star-crossed lovers drama.
3/5 - Good
Beautiful story with a stamp of real quality given by Brando.
Brando takes a break from serious films to earn a bit of cash and some recognition in Sayonara. It lacks freshness today and likely can only be viewed as something that must be seen if you need to see the entire Brando cannon.
Marlon Brando plays a soldier named Ace, who has originated from the southern USA that has been reassigned to working in Japan. One of his colleagues Kelly (Red Buttons) falls in love and weds a Japanese woman (Miyoshi Umeki), although this not to the liking of his superiors. Additionally, Ace's woman (Patricia Owens) from America comes and joins him, although he starts losing interest in her and begins to fall in love with another lady, a Japanese actress (Miiko Taka). Honestly speaking, when I saw that director Joshua Logan was the same director of the 1956 film "Picnic," I became concerned that this drama would be unspectacular, and sure enough it was. It has not aged well, it is not that interesting, and therefore, it does not work on today's standards. Brando's consistent southern accent is quite annoying and not effective, like previously in the 1951 hit "A Streetcar Named Desire." James Garner adds nothing to this movie. I was ready to say "Sayonara" after 25 minutes watching this overly long picture. What a big disappointment, considering it took home two supporting acting awards (Buttons and Umeki, the Kelly couple and they are not bad at all).
Five stars simply for the variety of Japanese theater genres shown, from matsubayashi to bunraku puppetry, this is like a perfect sampling of Japanese theater. The story itself is sad and moving (even though a bit dated, but can interracial disharmony and bigotry ever be dated?) and the acting is superb all around. Marlon Brando's mutterings at the beginning of the film clear up right after you tune into his line, "She has enormous... capacity to fill a bathing suit."