Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Wonderful Sunday (Akira Kurosawa, 1947)

With One Wonderful Sunday, I find that I officially prefer Kurosawa’s meditations on postwar Japan to his extravagant samurai epics. Prompted by a recent blog entry by David Bordwell, in which he expresses some skepticism about Kurosawa’s major films and studies with enthusiasm some of his forties output, I decided to sit down and watch this little gem of a movie about a disillusioned veteran Yuzo (Isao Numasaki) spending a Sunday with his fiancé Masako (Chieko Nakakita), both of whom are poor and struggling in postwar Tokyo. The film has a lot of Capra-esque populist sentimentality, but this is given an affecting realist weight by the on-location shooting and narrative lapses into bitter sadness and defeatism. A shattering of the fourth-wall in the film’s final movement is obviously going to strike some viewers as going too far to make a statement or elicit an audience response, but the sheer desperation with which Masako pleads feels like a sincere beckoning to the people of Japan, and is doubtless warranted by the state of the nation during Allied occupation. There is no grand triumph of the people, but there are flittering moments of everyday whimsy and joy; all this, together with wonderful camerawork—dolly shots that slide across the rainy city streets and a slow, low-angle inward tracking shot that builds suspense as he approaches an embittered shopkeeper are two noticeable examples—make One Wonderful Sunday one of my favorite Kurosawa films, and prod me to explore more of his early work.

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