The story of American servicemen on leave in Japan during the Korean War, and the anguish they suffer after being spurned by both societies for loving Japanese women. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: NR — Release Date: 1... more »1-JAN-2005
"Marlon Brando stars in "Sayonara," a 1957 love story based on the James Michener novel that tackles the issue of interracial romance. Brando plays a Major in the Air Force stationed in Korea, who also happens to be the son of a big-shot General and is wooing the daughter (played by Patricia Owens) of a Lt. General. When one of the men under his command (Red Buttons) declares his intentions of marrying a Japanese woman (Miyoshi Umeki), Brando tries to talk him out of it. When Brando and Buttons are transferred to Japan, Brando re-ignites his relationship with his girlfriend who is living there with her family. However, he also starts to realize that he's never explored what he actually wants in life - everything has been dictated by his family and social position. He then surprises even himself when he is attracted to a mysterious Japanese dancer, played by Miiko Taka.
"Sayonara" is surprisingly effective, both as a romance and as an "issues" movie; it really stands up better than most "issues" movies of its time. Most of the reason is because of the superb acting; Buttons and Umeki won Oscars for their supporting roles. In addition, Brando gives an under-stated, sensitive performance in his Oscar-nominated role. Fortunately, the outstanding acting allows the audience to believe Brando's transformation as well as the relationships that form, which is crucial for this film. Director Joshua Logan also does great work here, especially as he's best known for rather over-heated, unsubtle movies such as "Bus Stop" and "Picnic." The cinematography is exquisite and the segments in the Japanese theaters are wonderfully staged. Although "Sayonara" is a bit on the long side and probably could have used some editing, it's a first-class drama. Highly recommended. "
Dianne Foster | USA | 08/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I was a teenager, James Michner was publishing his early books, "Fires of Spring" "Tales from the South Pacific" "Bridges at Toko-Ri" "Sayonara" "Until They Sail" and "Hawaii." I saved my allowance and bought all these books, and though I've traveled extensively and moved many times, I've hung onto them. They affected my life more than anything else I've read, and they point to the fact that the issues so often seen as "arising" in the 1960s (racism, sexism, pacifism) were really issues in the 1950s. Sayonara stars Marlon Brando as Major Lloyd Gruber, a U.S. Air Force field officer stationed in Japan, who is destined to follow in his father's footsteps and become one of the "joint chiefs" if he plays his cards right. Toward that end, his father does not want him to do anything to jeopardize his career--especially the unthinkable--marry "indigeous personnel" as the Japanese were called in U.S. occupied Japan. Lloyd is to marry a young woman who is the daughter of a fellow senior officer. I won't tell you how the story develops but just say the book and the film are different. James Michener was in the Navy and he married a Japanese woman. He went on to teach English in Texas and put together a handsome collection of Japanese prints when they were inexpensive. Michener never forgot his WWII experiences and he captured them in his books. In the fifties, military personnel began to marry War Brides as they were called. By the 1960s when I was a Marine officer's wife, many of my fellow wives were from foreign countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa. I did not understand why the U.S. had race problems since the military was so well integrated--at least in base housing. One of the most touching sights I recall from those days was the Japanese wives leaving the PX theater in tears after the showing of Sayonara, which was playing in military theaters 20 years after it opened. This is a beautiful film, and shows a Japan that is still recovering from the aftermath of war, but nevertheless beautiful. It is difficult to understand how the people who created the tea ceremony could also have produced such fierce warriors. It's important to remember that Sayonara takes place a mere 8 years after the end of WWII. The Bataan Death March and other atrocities were still pretty fresh, and yet the American public loved this film and loved Michener's books. Their response says much about their ability to forgive."
Watch it for this one scene, if nothing else.
John M Walker | Omaha, NE United States | 05/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was seven years old when this movie came out in 1957, but I had never heard of it until one day recently I accidentally caught the end of it on FLIX. I have since watched it over and over -- something I rarely do with any film. Others I have asked also had never heard of it.
This film is undeserving of such obscurity; it's a wonderful movie that just captivates me. But there's one scene in this film that is a high example of the filmmaker's art. This scene, in its perfection, is the most powerfully romantic movie scene I have ever beheld. Even after watching it many times, it still leaves me shaking! Wow! This scene transcends story telling with film; it is literature.
It evokes something from Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert), or Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy). That is to say, the scene portrays something vital about the human experience. At least it does for me; but then, I admit I'm a sucker for stories of love between American men and Asian women.
The scene to which I refer is when Lloyd Gruver (Marlon Brando) encounters Hana-ogi in Joe Kelly's (Red Buttons) house. It begins when he opens the sliding door and sees her kneeling, erect, serene, and dignified, waiting for him to arrive. If not on the first watching, then on the second, fourth, or eleventh watching, one will become aware that the lighting, the sound, the furnishings of the room, her hair, her kimonos, her makeup (especially her painted lips) are all perfect. What an ambiance! What a setting for a man and a woman to fall in love!
Gruver is immediately struck by her presence; this is plain to see. Nevertheless, he recovers his usual demeanor and proceeds to try to make small talk, his mind and body regarding this lovely creature with respect and admiration, but also lust. She just sits there, regarding him without moving, without even blinking, betraying no thoughts or emotions. His discomfort rises.
Then, when it is time and not before, she begins to speak. She speaks word of deep humanity, compassion, wisdom, and sincerity. The power of her words is greatly enhanced by the quiet dignity with which she speaks them. Gruver is dumbfounded, and Brando plays this role very well. You can see on his face (Flaubert or Tolstoy would have painted the picture with words) that his life, unexpectedly, has just been bifurcated. There is now the life before this encounter, and what will come after. He can never again be the same man -- he can never again regard women the same; Hana-ogi is a new paradigm. He never looked for such a thing before, because he never imagined such a woman or such a feeling could exist.
Some people continue to insist such love themes are racist. That is absurd. It is the antithesis of racism. This is the profoundest love flourishing in spite of different races and cultures, and the inevitable perils incumbent with this relationship in this place at this time. This is love between a man and a woman, as unfettered by affectations and expectations as love can be. This is the raw, real thing, and this film tells this tale, exquisitely done."
Sayonara, some questions answered.
S. J. Culbertson | Ikoma-City, Nara, Japan | 08/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sayonara follows Air Force officer Lloyd (Marlon Brando) who is conveniently transferred from Korea to Kobe, Japan in hopes that he will wed a Generals daughter. Being unsure of his feelings on marriage, Lloyd soon becomes attracted to a famous dancer named Hana Ogi (Miko Tanaka) who has issues of her own. The other sub plot in the film involves Lloyds friend Kelly (Red Buttons) who faces prejudice and bullying from his commanding officer for marrying his frowned upon Japanese wife Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki). Both Buttons and Umeki won best supporting actor and actress Oscars for this film.
Yes the film, despite being a love story, spends a lot of time exploring racism against the Japanese. As some reviewers have pointed out, the Japanese were also very racist. That fact is only touched on in one scene where Mr. Nakamura (the only real Japanese man shown in the film and played interestingly enough by a very young Ricado Montalban) mentions that some of his own countrymen are not too terribly enthusiastic about international relationships. Granted, in a film which tries to juggle the beauty of Japan, racism and a love story, there is hardly time to explore the Japanese view point. One does wonder how Red Buttons wife's parents reacted to their daughter Katsumi marrying an American? Had Marlon Brando's love interest Hana Ogi's family lived surely they would not have been pleased with her giving up her famous career to marry a foreigner. Sadly none of these things are examined and may have been a flaw in a film trying to combat such a serious issue.
Mika Tanaka who portrays Brando's girlfriend was actually an American born into a wealthy Japanese family from Washington State. That's why her command of English is so good. Her character of Hana Ogi is a famous dancer in the Matsubayashi Girls dancing troupe. She explains to Brando in one heartfelt scene that she owes her life to the troupe and that her responsibility is to grow old and become a teacher for future dancers. There were no actual "Matsubayashi Girls" but the film invents the troupe as a serious, harshly governed, traditional group of girls who ironically perform Las Vegas style shows.Such dancers doing modern style dances for American G.I.'s were no doubt plentiful in post war Japan. However these girls came from a much less structured and governed group unlike the film would have you believe. In other words, the Geisha didn't go running off and put on tap shoes. The film's credits list the Matsubayahi girls as played by the Shochiku Comany dancers. Shochiku is still a well known movie company today but their days of promoting dancers, if in fact they ever did, are long since gone. I have reason to suspect that they were created just for this film.
The film is shot in Itami City,Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, Ise and Tokyo. One of my favorite scenes is Marlon Brando on the beach in Ise, admiring the "wedding rocks" while James Garner waits behind him in a jeep.........a good 100 km away in Arashiyama!
Most modern Japanese have never heard of the film Sayonara. The small group of Japanese adults that I know who did watch this film to were surprised and embarrassed by the level of servitude that Katsumi gave to Red Buttons. They also laughed at the fact that most of the Japanese women in the film adopted a very flat accent which was very typical of old T.V. dramas at the time.Like many movies of their time shot in Japan, Americans are portrayed with the "how could anyone not love us"? attitude.
The original 1957 movie program (Japanese) does mention that there was another ending to the film or rather, the ending was left out. In Japan, it seems, the last 5 minutes of the film wasn't shown in Japan. Weather it was cut, or another scene was shot later for American audiences, the program doesn't say. If there are other versions, they weren't shown in Japan.
One final note, which is probably THE SADDEST of all concerns Miyoshi Umeki who won a best supporting actress for this film. She started her career as a singer and changed her name briefly to Nancy Umeki before being hired for Sayonara. After winning the Oscar, she moved to the U.S. and did many bit parts in movies and t.v. Most people might remember her in the U.S. playing Mrs. Livingston opposite Bill Bixby in the short lived T.V. drama "The Courtship of Eddies Father". Despite being the first Asian and the first Japanese to win an Oscar, she is virtually unknown in Japan. One would think that in Japan they would celebrate such an honored person but sadly the old generation barely remembers her and the new one has never heard of her. Oscar shows in Japan, at lest the last 10 years that I have watched, have never mentioned her. Miyoshi died in August of 2007 and there was very little about her death in Japan."
True to Life, Touching and Humorous
Robert C. Mitchell | APO, AP USA | 02/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This has to be one of my favorite movies of all time. Being in the military myself, and stationed in places like Korea and Japan, I can relate totally to what is depicted in this movie, for I have lived it. Red Buttons portrays an airman who understands oriental ways, and yet is confounded by them at the same time. Marlon Brando approaches his role with sensitivity and a little bit of the ol' military bravado. Miiko Taka and Miyoshi Umeki are two of the most lovely Japanese women I've ever seen. James Garner adds a bit of humor to a touching love story. Check out the lovely costumes, kimonos and colors in the movie. And listen to the various renditions of Irving Berlin's song "Sayonara." My favorite is the jazzy version you hear on the radio at Joe Kelly's house. Watch this movie and you won't go wrong!"