*Woops! I didnt intend to put two movie reviews together on this blog but I had a rather busy weekend and forgot to post another entry. Anyway, enjoy this review of one of my favorite films, Sayonara.*
Directed by: Joshua Logan
Starring: Marlon Brando as Lloyd Gruver and Miko Taka as Hana-Ogi
Co-starring Red Buttons, James Garner, Ricardo Montalban, and Miyoshi Umeki
Marlon Brando stars as Ace Lloyd Gruver, a U.S. fighter pilot who has become a bit jaded with his career of choice. After an active run and quite a successful record in the Korean War, he is assigned some mandatory downtime in Kobe Japan, accompanied by fellow serviceman, Major Joe Kelley. Joe (phenomenally portrayed by Red Buttons) is intent on marrying a sweet Japanese girl, much to Lloyd's disdain. All ammount of persuasion on the part of Gruver and other superior officers will not disuade Kelley from his marriage and therefore, Lloyd begrudgingly offers to be a witness at his wedding. During the days that follow, Lloyd becomes even more frustrated with his life choices as he realizes that his fiance is not all that he remembered her to be (she is the general's daughter, visiting Lloyd in Japan) and the future awaiting him in the states appears bleak. However, Lloyd's distaste for Japanese women and culture makes an 'about face' when he accompanies a buddy to the famed Matso Bayashi show. There, he lays eyes on the beautiful Hana Ogi, one of the country's most popular female dancers. The love story that results is one of the most satisfying I've ever seen and even through tragedy and a racially charged atmosphere, the lovers emerge triumphant.
Thought this may not be Marlon Brando's best performance, I'll venture to say it is his most loveable. He is strongly convicing as this die-hard serviceman turned goofy by infatuation. His southern accent is muddled and careful endevor is made that the viewer not know exactly where he comes from. But recognizeable or no, this accent makes him a doll. He is vulnerable and endearing-ignorant and wise. Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umecki (oscar winners for their portrayals), are also fantastic in their respective roles as the newlywed couple. Their commitment and infatuation with one another is contagious. Umeki really stands out, especially when she uses her precious broken english to make her adoration for her husband conservatively but effectively known. Miko Taka, as Hana-Ogi, is regal and impressive but mainly she is a vision of loveliness. A speech in which she declares her love for Gruver in the face of his rapt astonishment, is in my opinion the stuff of movie legend.
The direction is wonderful and the film is shot primarily on location, something that was not extremely common for this type of film-especially at this time in history. The Japanese culture is lovingly handled throughout, with special attention being paid to the ceremonial nature of the people. The Kabuki and Matso Bayashi scenes are overwhelmingly beautiful, as are the lovely scenes in the Japanese countryside. The Japanese people themselves are portrayed in an comparatively unbiased light as well which, again, considering the year is quite astonishing.
All in all, this is a movie for the shelf. Even after repeat viewings, the great acting and strong story never fail to move.
My rating: 9/10
Style Factor: Most of the women in this film are, naturally, wearing exquisite Japanese Garb. Miko Taka, as famed dancer Hana Ogi, is the 'leading lady' and therefore her clothing is the most extravagant. Mainly, she wears lovely Kimono robes with elegant floral hair accessories and elaborate Japanese hairstyles. During a few clips of her actual performances, Western styles come into play and she looks fantastic in all of them. She sports tuxedo and top hat, shimmering gold full length bodysuit, gorgeous full skirted dress-all with equal grace and poise. I am also drawn to her lavish hairstyles that she wears during performances, since they are phenomenal creations in themselves. But more than that, I am intrigued by the gorgeous 1940's inspired rolls and curls that she wears when she is visiting with Lloyd in her 'downtime'. Though there is definitely an overpowering sense of her Japanese heritage in these styles, one still can see the Western influence in the casual look of them. Also, the gorgeous costume designs by Norma Koch that are worn by the two American ladies in the film (Martha Scott and Patricia Owens) cannot be overlooked. Patricia wears her hair in simple upsweep throughout the film but her clothing reflects her rank in society; one elegant black and white gown is especially memorable.
Style Score: 8/10