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One Wonderful Sunday (1947)


Don't be fooled by their joyous attitude, it's so much better than this cover purports
Don't be fooled by their joyous attitude, it's so much better than this cover purports

Genre: Drama Romance (Japan)

Starring: Isao Numasaki, Chieko Nakakita (Drunken AngelThe Quiet Duel)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa (Throne of BloodDersu Uzala)

Overview: A poor couple does what it can to enjoy their day together, with only 35 Yen between them.

At this point in my study, I've come to realize that Akira Kurosawa is far more focused on the characters and the story than on visuals. Sadly I can't attest to the script since everything I've seen so far is so badly translated that I won't presume anything, but I do know that Kurosawa eventually found his scripts to be the most important aspect of his films. After having seen One Wonderful Sunday, the eighth film he directed (he wrote or co-wrote all his films), I can see his potential slowly growing to fruition as it approaches the mastery he's renowned for.

Though One Wonderful Sunday is considered a Romance, the Romance is one that is already established, it is not a 'new love' story. The couple we follow has been together for some time and are facing the practical realities of their impoverished situation. Though the film contains many happy moments of togetherness, underneath it all is the very real and not-so-fluffy Drama that is overshadowed by Japan's post-war poor and displaced citizenry.

The premise begins with a poor couple meeting for their usual weekly Sunday date. Together they have very little money between them (approximately equivalent to $7) and they do what they can to make the most of it. Our couple's emotional state seems perfectly paralleled with their attire: the nay-saying Yuzo wears rumpled dark clothes and shoes with holes in the soles, while the more optimistic Masako is dressed in a clean white coat.

As their day goes on they talk about the future, their dreams and goals, and what they could do with what little money they have, a plot that rather than being overly simple allows a full exploration of the characters.

Kurosawa take this romance and infuses it with harsh reality, juxtaposing the dream of having a coffee shop amidst surroundings of a bombed out neighbourhood. Injustices come in the form of starving orphans and greedy scalpers, and rather than framing a poor but happy-go-lucky couple, Kurosawa tells a tale of a pair who may or may not last the day as they are surrounded by poverty, pain and broken dreams.

My first recommendable film for those who might want a glimpse into one artist's poignant commentary about the everyday lives of the people straining to cope with the world they live in, One Wonderful Sunday was certainly a most welcome surprise in this early collection of his works... but good luck finding it, it only seems available on VHS.

Ohhh, I can seee you! There's the talent! There is it!"
Ohhh, I can seee you! There's the talent! There is it!"

Overall Rating: 74% (And A Wonderful Surprise)

When Akira was 13 years old, he witnessed the devastation of the Great Kantō earthquake that killed 100,000. It seems that this event forever changed Kurosawa into a man who made films that were usually either bittersweet or bitterly tragic. That can be seen here is all its glory and for the first time, without streaks of propagandism.

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Thankfully, all of Kurosawa's films are now readily available. Some you'd have to drop a good chunk of change to see, because as far as I know the only available copies are in the Criterion Collection's 100th birthday of Kurosawa boxset, 25 films for about $300-350.  I splurged on it a few years back, and don't regret it one bit. I think they even have better translations for most of the earlier films, and maybe better prints for the ones they could find to replace older ones. I am far more forgiving than you seem to be for his older films, but then again, I can see all of your complaints for some of the earliest stuff.

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