DVD - 2001 | Widescreen version.
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An American Air Force major on leave in Japan after the Korean War falls in love with a Japanese actress. When they declare their love openly, they find themselves scorned equally by both the Japanese and Americans.


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Feb 04, 2015

During the Korean war when thousands of American servicemen were stationed in Japan, it was Uncle Sam’s official policy to actively discourage romantic liaisons between U.S. soldiers and Japanese women by imposing draconian sanctions including a law forbidding G.I.s from bringing their “Oriental” brides home to the States; a policy which many Japanese nationals applauded. As the story opens, top gun pilot Major Lloyd “Ace” Gruver (Marlon Brando looking especially hot in his dress blues) has just been assigned to a cushy desk job in Kyoto thanks to his girlfriend Eileen’s father, a four-star general and personal friend of the family. Gruver is pure stars & stripes and apple pie; he doesn’t know the difference between a pagoda and a sushi roll, nor does he care. But when he’s asked by his good friend and fellow airman Joe Kelly (a marvelously understated Red Buttons) to be his best man as he marries a local girl his convictions are put to the test. His decision to stand by Kelly not only derails his relationship with Eileen and her family, but also threatens his military career as he becomes a target of the air force’s ingrained racism. Alone and disillusioned he finds himself smitten by an aloof Japanese cabaret performer, Hana-Ogi, and thus begins his own forbidden love affair. Like Gruver and Kelly, Hana-Ogi, is also bound by unfair social conventions. She is legally “owned” by the theatre company and therefore barred from marrying, or even dating. As pressures mount against the two couples events come to a final climax which leads to tragedy for one, and a courageous stand for the other. Contentious for its time, Sayonara openly criticized both the military and the American public for their narrow-minded bigotry. It’s message has mellowed considerably over the years however and what we are left with is a lightweight western tear-jerker with colourful Japanese trappings, including a ludicrously miscast Ricardo Montalban in Kabuki drag. Fun to watch, easy to forget.


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