Tuesday, July 25, 2006

One Wonderful Sunday (1947)

One Wonderful Sunday (Akira Kurosawa, 1947)
Japanese Title: Subarashiki nichiyobi

Sunday morning, a crowded train takes a stop and passengers alight. A petite and chubby faced woman rushes down the train station. Standing alone in a crowded street, deciding whether he'd pick up a stick of used cigarette and smoke a puff, is a man impatiently waiting for someone. The woman and the man meet up. The man suddenly complains that they can't go out on a date as he only has fifteen yens. The woman brightly replies that she has money, twenty yens. The man declines. We see the woman help a little kid buy something out of a vending machine, the man sees the woman's act of charity despite his depressing attitude, and finally agrees to take the woman on a date with their pool of money of thirty five yens.

Akira Kurosawa's One Wonderful Sunday is a detailed telling of the couple's Sunday date. The man, we later find out, is a war veteran who has been reduced to poverty, working as a laborer, and living with another man in an unkempt and leaky room. The woman, always seen beaming with optimism and charm despite the man's grumpy and grim disposition, is obviously in love with the man. The Sunday is spent visiting houses for sale, which they cannot afford. Knowing the impossible expense of buying a new house, they inquire about a room for rent, described by the concierge as a six meter by six meter space that isn't reached by sunlight and whose only view is the bathroom facility of a neighboring factory, is impossible to reach given their present combined income. The chances of getting a place where they can live together thins as they go along. Kurosawa ups the value of their Sunday date, that as of that moment, it is probably the most valuable thing that they can both afford.

Kurosawa visualizes oppression with masterful ease. In Seven Samurai (1954), about a band of seven samurai who are paid with rice to defend a poor village from bandits, one of its most enduring images is when the village's representative hires the samurai leader with a bag of rice, the town's only treasure. When the rice spills from the bag, the representative picks each and every bit of rice that landed on and between the wooden panels. Even in the films made years before Seven Samurai, Kurosawa has expressed his clear affinity for the oppressed, painting them emphatically. A memorable scene in One Wonderful Sunday involves the couple waiting in line. The two men in front of them suddenly purchases all the B-level tickets for the orchestra recital of Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony," leaving none for the couple. The woman expresses a clear disappointment, making the man pick a fight with the mass purchasers, which he eventually loses. The man becomes distraught and just decides to just go home. His girlfriend follows. An interplay follows suit, between a man whose only knowledge of cheap leisure is sex, and a woman whose only treasure is her virginity.

In One Wonderful Sunday, Kurosawa backdrops his simple yet heartfelt tale with the ruins of Tokyo, fresh from being bombed incessantly by the Americans during the Pacific War. We see broken pillars, dilapidated buildings, and orphans and impoverished citizens crowding in the sidewalks. However, Kurosawa also shows the other side of Tokyo, dictated by affluence and Westernization. The residents wear thick furs and flashy suits, expressing overt disgust upon sight of poverty. One Wonderful Sunday tangentially attacks a society that seems to have forgotten simple joys in exchange for the excesses of a materialistic world.

This post is my contribution to Filmsquish: Akira Kurosawa Blog-a-Thon.


Noel Vera said...

If I remember right, Kurosawa's something of a leftist. May have something to do with his fascination for Dostoevsky, too.

Oggs Cruz said...

This has been a while, but yeah, the film does show Kurosawa's leftist tendencies.

Anonymous said...

Noel Vera, you talk of Kurosawa's left-leaning political stance as if it's something unacceptable and to be ashamed of.