A charming, captivating opening movement, partly derivative of 1930s Clair and Capra, is the commendable part of Akira Kurosawa’s One Wonderful Sunday (Subarashiki nichiyobi). Loose-ended, open air, it follows a young man and his girlfriend on one of their off-work Sunday dates. An underpaid factory worker, he can offer his girlfriend little on this particular day, and possibly never thereafter; as he puts it, the war has destroyed his dreams.
As Yuzo and Masako walk together throughout Tokyo, they stop here, venture there; a high point occurs when their path crosses that of a hungry, possibly homeless boy. Alone, this child looms in contrast to the earlier group of boys at happy play in the streets.
Once the couple retreat to Yuzo’s squalid apartment, the action bottles up and the emotions take a nagging, sentimental turn. Outdoors again afterwards, at night, the film collapses into strain and silliness, with a Schubert accompaniment, no less!
But two things commend the film, at this point, for viewing. One is a sly dig at the occupation that got past the U.S. military censors: a public receptacle, with the white-painted word “trash” in English identifying it. The other: with dreams intervening to lighten the crush of poverty and hopelessness, in bits and shards One Wonderful Sunday anticipates one of Kurosawa’s masterpieces, Dô desu ka den (1970).
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