Sayonara (1957) (mini-review++)

say555(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 8

directing 8

effects 8

editing 8

writing 9


4.1 out of 5 🐙


A remarkable movie. Released only 12 years after the end of World War II, this film focuses on the twisted relationship of relationships between American soldiers occupying Japan and Japanese women and their frequent, unsurprising, and inevitable fraternization, love, marriage, and delivering of new lives. The military, in its infinite wisdom, institutes evil regulations that attempt to prevent marriages and cruelly separate couples if they manage to ignore the ordinances and marry anyway. Red Buttons (who plays Airman Kelly who marries a Japanese woman in the early part of the movie) and Miyoshi Umeki (who plays Katsumi, Kelly’s love) earned Oscars for their supporting roles. They marry against the many prohibitions and Major Lloyd Gruver (played by Marlon Brando in a turn that got him an Oscar nomination) reluctantly agrees to be his compatriot’s best man. of course, he ends up falling in love with a beautiful Japanese theater dancer, played with grace by Miiko taka.

(Oh, and James Garner [James Garner!!] won a Golden Glode for Most Promising Newcomer. You know it’s a classic movie when Garner is a newcomer. I could only recognize Garner by his singular voice. They are aspects of his future, older self in his face but none that confirm him. Sadly, and remarkably, Ricardo Montalban, another man with a highly recognizable voice, plays a Japanese kabuki star. It was a sad but common practice for Caucasian actors to plays people of color in classic movies. Montalban and his dialogue and role in the film indicate clear respect and admiration for him as a person and character but it is, of course, fraught by today’s standards. It doesn’t really bother me because there is a cold rock where my heart should be. But it still shocked me. He played the role with gentle kindness and integrity. In another shocking twist, particularly for that era, the former fiance of Brando’s character, Eileen Webster (played tragically by Patricia Owens), appears to fall in love with Montalban’s kabuki star, Nakamura. They don’t have the balls to show them actually falling in love but they strongly, and pretty obviously, imply that is what is about to happen which I guess is pretty good for the 50s.

The ending of Kelly and Katsumi’s relationship is absolutely brutal although it is forecasted a bit too much by an earlier scene. It’s a beautiful and horrible commentary on love and injustice. And the ridiculous and horrible and realistic and ironic topper to it all is that a general informs Gruver, long after it’s too late for Kelly and Katsumi, that a law will be passed by congress that will allow American military men to bring their Japanese wives home with them. But, of course, it comes too late. progress doesn’t always bring all boats into the harbor of justice. Many are horribly left behind.

At least the film ends with Hana-Ogi and Major Gruver getting married and emphatically saying Sayonara to the American and Japanese legions who virulently opposed this and every other similar coupling.







(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)


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