Monday, October 02, 2006


Directed by: Joshua Logan

Starring: Marlon Brando as Lloyd Gruver and Miko Taka as Hana-Ogi

Co-starring Red Buttons, James Garner, Ricardo Montalban, and Miyoshi Umeki

(appears at number 46 on my top 100 countdown)

There are a few love stories in movie history that stay with me as the best and this is one of them. The love story itself is believeable and moving but in addition to that, the complementary storytelling is equally compelling. It is hilarious, intriguing, and at all times vastly entertaining.

Marlon Brando stars as Ace Lloyd Gruver, a U.S. fighter pilot who has become a bit jaded with his career of choice. After an active run and quite a successful record in the Korean War, he is assigned some mandatory downtime in Kobe Japan, accompanied by fellow serviceman, Major Joe Kelley. Joe (phenomenally portrayed by Red Buttons) is intent on marrying a sweet Japanese girl, much to Lloyd's disdain. All ammount of persuasion on the part of Gruver and other superior officers will not disuade Kelley from his marriage and therefore Lloyd begrudgingly offers to be a witness at his wedding. During the days that follow, Lloyd becomes even more frustrated with his life choices as he realizes that his fiance is not all that he remembered her to be (she is a general's daughter and therefore visiting in Japan) and his future awaiting him in the states appears bleak. However, Lloyd's distaste for Japanese women and culture makes a quick 180 when he accompanies a buddy to the famed Matso Bayashi show and lays eyes on the beautiful Hana-Ogi, the country's most famous female dancer. The love story that results is one of the most satisfying I've ever seen and even through tragedy and racism-the lovers emerge triumphant.

Thought this may not be Marlon Brando's best performance, I'll venture to say it is his most loveable by far. He is the epitome of a die-hard serviceman turned goofy by infatuation. His southern accent is muddled and careful endevor is made that the viewer not know exactly where he comes from. But recognizeable or no, this accent makes him a doll. He is vulnerable and endearing-ignorant and wise. It is his performance on which the whole film hangs and he pulls it off with ease. Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umecki as the newlyweds are also fantastic in their respective roles. Red Buttons is the quintessential happy husband, just becoming aquainted with his little wife and her odd culture. Umecki is submissive, almost to a fault, while at the same time remaining absolutely adorable and strong. She speaks a precious broken english that succeeds in bringing me to tears (at one particular point especially) without fail. Miko Taka, as Hana-Ogi, is regal and impressive but mainly she is a vision of loveliness. Her 'I will love you hey-sa, if that is your desire' speech is the stuff of legends, especially coupled with the expression on Lloyds face when he hears it.

The direction is wonderful and the film is shot primarily on location, something that was not extremely common for this type of film-especially at this time in history. The Japanese culture is lovingly handled throughout, with special attention being paid to the ceremonial nature of the people. The Kabuki and Matso Bayashi scenes are overwhelmingly beautiful, as are the lovely scenes in the Japanese countryside. The japanese people themselves are portrayed in an unbiased and respectful light as well which, again, considering the year is quite astonishing.

All in all, this is a movie for the shelf. Even after repeat viewings, the great acting and adoring love of the lead characters never fails to move.

My rating: 10/10


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