Review: Subarashiki Nichiyôbi (One Wonderful Sunday, 1947)

Romance is difficult in pre-war, war, and post-war times!

Written By: Akira Kurosawa & Keinosuke Uekusa
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

Subarashiki Nichiyôbi is an interesting film from Akira Kurosawa. For me the film is interesting for two reasons. First, it is the earliest film I have seen from Kurosawa-san. Second, it is the gentlest film I have yet seen from the legendary Japanese director. I say that having not fully explored his filmography, but I have seen enough of his films that I feel I can speak to the relative oddness of Subarashiki Nichiyôbi’s genteel nature.

It is of course entirely possible that as I explore the earlier works of Akira Kurosawa I will find that Subarashiki Nichiyôbi nestles in nicely with the rest of his 1940s and earlier work. However, I have yet to see those films, and when compared to the later work of Kurosawa-san I was impressed with the easy going nature of the story in Subarashiki Nichiyôbi.

The Kurosawa-san film that most compares to Subarashiki Nichiyôbi is his 1952 classic, Ikiru. However, in that film the stakes were higher, and the characters recognized the level of the stakes. The characters in Subarashiki Nichiyôbi understand that their lives suck and that post-war Japan is a completely different beast than pre-war Japan. At the same time they bring an aloofness to their plight that distances them from the far reaching implications of the nations larger struggles.

That’s not to say that there aren’t moments when Subarashiki Nichiyôbi tries for a heavier tone while implementing its themes. One such example is the montage of zoo animals with the characters conversing about the existence of said animals. Compared with the rest of the film that sequence is out of place, a detour down a road where heavy rainfalls are occurring while the rest of the film has only had to deal with a slight drizzle.

There aren’t many moments like the zoo sequence in Subarashiki Nichiyôbi. The film is about a couple, exploring and dealing with post-war Japan and how it affects their love. Pessimism clashes with optimism, and said couple struggles to find happiness. But in the end they do, despite the deck being stacked against them the film ends on a note of happiness. The message is clear, war is a terrible thing but it can’t keep the human spirit down. All of the conversations that take place between Yuzo and Masako speak to this, but the conversations manage to maintain a light feel throughout.

Kurosawa-san could have gone one hundred percent heavy with Subarashiki Nichiyôbi. He could have made the message of his film the most important aspect. But he doesn’t, instead Kurosawa-san shows a restrained hand and allows for his characters to connect with the audience. In doing that the themes of the film gain more traction that they would have with a blunt force approach. Tough times are ahead for Japan, and the same holds true for Yuzo and Masako. Subarashiki Nichiyôbi shows the promise of the many great years Akira Kurosawa had in front of him as a legendary filmmaker.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: Subarashiki Nichiyôbi (One Wonderful Sunday, 1947)

  1. ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY – Chieko Nakakita’s Masako is irrepressible… Isao Numasaki is just great as Yuzo… a moving story of survival, and (true) love… the film captured me from the very beginning… this one will make you laugh and give a hard tug at your heartstrings… the last 5 minutes is so touching and tender it almost hurts… and, I’m sure that Yuzo and Masako met again that next Sunday… and again the Sunday after that… and that she would always hear his ‘symphony’… and i’m sure, that eventually, they did get that little place of theirs… and somewhere out in the celluloid universe, there is a happy couple sitting on their porch overlooking their garden… and they’re having many Wonderful Sunday’s. This is Kurosawa’s BEST… 5 stars –Mike

  2. It’s certainly great, but for me it doesn’t quite match the heights of Ran, Ikiru, Rashomon, and a few others from Kurosawa that I would say are his best.

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