Sayonara

I took a break from grading papers to watch “Sayonara” with Marlon Brando.  It was a film that looked beautiful in its Technicolor photography with its setting in Japan, but it certainly had huge flaws, too.  One of the positive aspects was that it showed interracial marriage, reflecting a bit of James Michener’s real life.  One of the bad elements was throwing Ricardo Montalban into the cast to play the role of a Japanese man.  Talk about one of your unconvincing portrayals.  This one made you cringe.  Audrey Hepburn wisely decided not to play the role of Hana-Ogi, Brando’s love interest.  Another thing that was uncomfortable to watch was the Japanese women being defined by men.  Katsumi happily scrubs Kelly’s back in one scene, and in another Kelly gets angry with her for her attempt to undergo a procedure to alter her eyes.  Gruver expects Hana-Ogi to drop everything she’s doing to become his wife.  American culture may not be superior to Japanese culture, but it sure is louder and more obnoxious, and it pushes aside everything else.  On the plus side for this movie is Brando, whose character goes from opposition to Kelly’s marriage to some kind of appreciation.  This isn’t Brando’s greatest performance, but he does raise the quality of the movie.  James Garner also plays an American officer.  Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki both won supporting acting Oscars for this movie.  There is a Romeo and Juliet aspect to their characters’ relationship, but I think that the ending gives a misleading impression of Asian philosophy.  They certainly acted too soon.  Today the thought of a movie like “Sayonara” being nominated for the Best Picture Oscar is rather laughable, but the main reason to see it is to have a look at what Marlon Brando does in it.  In the same year that “Sayonara” was released, Akira Kurosawa directed “Throne of Blood” and “The Lower Depths,” and in the following year there was “The Hidden Fortress.”  At one time, “Sayonara” was going to be a musical, with the Irving Berlin song a part of it.  Joshua Logan followed “Sayonara” with “South Pacific,” and his last four films were “Fanny,” “Ensign Pulver,” “Camelot,” and “Paint Your Wagon.”  He died in 1988 at age 79.  Some of the people who died on March 17 include Luchino Visconti (1976), Helen Hayes (1993), Terry Stafford (1996), Freddie Francis (2007), and Alex Chilton (2010).  Today is a birthday for Billy Corgan (50), Gary Sinise (62), and Kurt Russell (66).

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