Filmsite Movie Review
Sayonara (1957)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Targeted Crackdown on US Military Men Married to Japanese Women:

Kelly interrupted with disturbing news that the spiteful Colonel Crawford had given orders that all US military men married to Japanese women had been reassigned, and he would be shipped back to the US - without his wife (who was now pregnant). To help his friend, Major Gruver attempted to persuade the Colonel to countermand or postpone the order, and exempt Kelly from being shipped out, but his request was refused: ("There's nothin' you can do about it, even if you are a four-star general's son"). Even Kelly's Japanese house on the canal and the street were now declared off-limits.

The Major then sought out General Webster to plead for help, but found that he was also unwilling to interfere with the chain of command: ("It's not our policy to interfere with decisions made by immediate commanding officers"). He even stated that some regretful servicemen would welcome the transfer order, but Gruver asserted: "General Webster, there's no regret in the case of Kelly and Katsumi." Eileen also vainly attempted to persuade her father that the policy was hurtful: "So it comes down to the fact that the Army lets them get married and then forces them to desert their wives and babies."

Angered by their lack of cooperation, Gruver decided to divulge his own relationship with a Japanese woman and his plans to marry: "Kelly's from my outfit, Mrs. Webster. I was his best man. And I'm planning to marry a Japanese girl myself." He was implying that he would soon be in the same conflicted situation as Kelly. Eileen (and her mother) were upset by Lloyd's pronouncement (of a formal breakup of his engagement), but Eileen was able to clearly acknowledge to her parents that he had finally discovered passionate love - but with someone else. She departed from her controlling parents to share her feelings with Nakamura: ("There's only one person I'd like to talk to at the moment, and oddly enough, he's Japanese").

Gruver briefly met with Kelly and told him the bad news, but reassured him: "l think there's gonna be a way out of it." He then told Hana-ogi about his hopes for their future: "The Army's got to change that law next year or the next one. l mean, it just has to be. l'm sure of it." He surprised her with news that he had already signed papers for their wedding - and then told her: "Of course, l won't be able to take you back to America, but they're bound to change that ridiculous law soon." He offered to stay in Japan with her as long as possible and quit the Air Force if he had to, but she refused to accept his unexpected proposal at such a difficult time. She stated how she didn't want to bring shame upon her dancing troupe: ("Matsubayashi has been kind to me, Lloyd. l am obligated to them...They are my life. l will bring shame to them, disgrace"), and that it was too much of a personal risk for both of them. She explained how she too was being punished (although leniently) with a transfer to Tokyo by the company in six days, for consorting with an American, rather than being summarily dismissed. At first, he accused her of not loving him enough:

Gruver: You mean you simply don't love me enough to go on through with it. That's what you mean, don't you? Why don't you just come on out and say it?

She explained how her life was much more complicated than that. She claimed that she didn't deserve his love, and when she was a young girl, she was sold into prostitution by her destitute father, although she was fortuitously saved and joined Matsubayashi:

l have no right to marry anyone. My father was very poor. To save his other children, he was forced to sell one of his daughters. The man from the houses of Yoshiwara came to him. Because l was the oldest, he agreed l should go with them...Yes, but l was saved from starting this life by my best friend, Fumiko-san. Her father paid money to free me and she brought me to Matsubayashi. There, l not only earn my living. l brought honor back to my family. Matsubayashi has been kind to me. They have trusted me. l cannot leave them. l cannot marry anyone.

Suddenly, Kelly burst into the adjoining room condemning his wife Katsumi for having scheduled to have her eyelids slashed for $8 by a quack doctor, so that she would "have good eyes. l fool everybody. l look American, like Joe....I want him to be proud of me." Kelly pleaded with Katsumi and assured her that he loved her the way she was.

Ritualized Suicide:

To temporarily forget about everyone's problems, the two couples took the train to Osaka to watch a puppet/marionette show. The show's "tender story" was a clear foreshadowing of the tragic conclusion of the film - the practice of ritualized suicide (or shinju). Hana-ogi described the Japanese custom:

lt is custom for lovers to die together when they can no longer face life.

Katsumi calmed Kelly about the outcome of the play: "They will live in another world on a beautiful lake, floating always together, like water lily." They watched as the male puppet stabbed his female lover with a sword and then impaled himself.

When they returned home, they were warned by the neighbors' children that soldiers (MPs) had arrived during their absence to board up Kelly's house with planks of wood reading "OFF LIMITS." Hana-ogi was directed to be driven to Matsubayashi, while Major Gruver was taken away to the base by soldiers (by Gen. Webster's orders), and Kelly was told he wouldn't need his house because he was shipping out to the US in two days.

Major Gruver was arrested, taken into custody, and brought to the base where Gen. Webster told him that he had violated the law about fraternization in public. He was also told that his hopes of marrying Hana-ogi were now dashed. The supervisor of the Matsubayashi had decided to fly his star dancer Hana-ogi to Tokyo immediately, and Gruver was scheduled to fly to Randolph Field (an air force base) in two days. He was ordered to be house-arrested (confined to his quarters) before his deployment..

About 24 hours later, two MPs asked for Gruver's assistance in helping to find Kelly, who went AWOL when he failed to be on a rescheduled, earlier flight to the US. The MPs claimed they hadn't yet reported Kelly for military desertion, and it was imperative to find him quickly. At dawn, Bailey and Gruver drove to Kelly's boarded up house, broke in, and discovered the shocking double-suicide of Kelly and Katsumi. They had carried out a joint suicide pact rather than face being separated ("when they can no longer face life"). Gruver found them lying together in bed and was devastated.

Just before Hana-ogi was about to depart for Tokyo, she had also arrived secretly at Kelly's house, alone and unnoticed. She slid open a rear window - looked in, and softly whispered "Sayonara" to Joe, Katsumi, and Lloyd. She was unseen and unheard before she left through the rear gate.

After leaving Kelly's home, Gruver and Bailey were attacked by an angry mob of Japanese "professional troublemakers," and onlookers with anti-American signs ("WE DON'T WANT YANKS," "ORIENT FOR ORIENTAL," and "DON'T DATE OUR GIRLS"), but the two were saved when other more sympathetic neighbors intervened, and they were able to escape unharmed.

The Film's Resolution:

Major Gruver's resolve to marry Hana-ogi was further strengthened, and he crossed the bridge to the Matsubayashi theater company to find her. He was informed that she had already left Kobe for Tokyo a week ahead of schedule. He was disbelieving, but was convinced when told she was gone by Fumiko. He feared that she had left him for good.

Back at the base, General Webster apologized to Gruver for the "dreadful" circumstances that led to the deaths of Kelly and his wife. He also told Gruver that he had just learned hopeful, yet ironic and ill-timed news about new laws that would allow inter-racial marriages in the US: "There's a law being passed in a month or two that will make it possible for men like Kelly to take their Japanese brides back to the States." Gen. Webster firmly suggested that now was the time for the Major to also be reassigned to the US, in order to get back to his roots:

You're lost. You're confused. Don't you think it's time you got back to the main stream of your life? Back to your roots? What you were born for, and raised for? You'll feel better about everything when you get back home, back to your work.

Before leaving, the Major flew to Tokyo where Hana-ogi was now performing with her Japanese theater troupe. After her performance, he informed her that he was returning to the US in just a few days, and again proposed whether they could work out their relationship. Frightened and confused, she shared how she had lost her feelings of love and didn't want to be with him: "Love has gone out of my work, out of me. Lloyd, please go now. This will only bring pain and trouble." He begged for her to be honest: "You and l are gonna have more trouble than we ever thought of having in our lives unless you're absolutely honest with yourself." He also pleaded with her to express whether she loved him or not: "Do you love me, or don't you? Because if you don't, then l'm gonna have to find a way to live with it." Finally, when she was able to think of a sincere answer, she blurted out: "We must do the right thing."

Gruver vehemently disagreed and felt that doing the 'right thing' for either Japanese tradition and/or American interests was no longer in their best interest, and that their only obligation was to themselves:

Gruver: What are you talkin' about, the right thing? We've been wastin' two good lives tryin' to do the right thing - the right thing for Matsubayashi, the right thing for my father - the right thing for the military, the right thing for Japanese tradition - the right thing for the great white race.
Hana-ogi: But we have duties and obligations.
Gruver: That's right. We do, we do have duties and obligations, and the first obligation we have is to love each other, to become man and wife, and raise some clean, sweet children, and give them the very best that we know how. And if we don't meet that obligation, we ain't gonna be any good to anybody.

Still with some doubt, she spoke about their vastly different cultural and biological backgrounds: "We live in different worlds, come from different races." She also was worried about what might happen if they had children: ("But what would happen to our children? What would they be?"). Lloyd eloquently replied that her concerns about their offspring didn't matter:

What would they be? They'd be half Japanese, half American. They'd be half yellow and half white. They'd be half you, they'd be half me. That's all they're gonna be.

He insisted that they immediately visit the American consulate in Tokyo together to fill out their marriage papers - "Will you come?" He said that he would wait for her to join him outside. As Gruver exited the theatrical performance venue, he was greeted by waiting crowds of fans, and competing Japanese and American military reporters (from Stars and Stripes) who were looking to interview him for a story scoop. When Lloyd was asked to comment on his proposed marriage to Hana-ogi, he called on her to speak for the two of them to the English-speaking reporters, even though she wasn't used to speaking in public:

It is very difficult for Japanese woman to speak in public. I have never done so. But perhaps now it is the time. Major Gruver has asked me to be his wife. He knows there are many people in his country who will be disturbed by this. I know my people will be shocked, too. But I hope they will learn to understand and someday approve. We are not afraid, because we know this is right. I hope I can continue as a dancer. And I hope when I'm old, I will be able to teach children to dance. My own children.

The reporter also asked Lloyd to comment on his pending marriage to a Japanese woman (that would offend both the U.S. military "brass" and the Japanese), and to speculate about the negative reaction they would both receive:

Major, the big brass are gonna yell their heads off about this, and the Japanese aren't gonna like it much either. Have you got anything to say to them, sir?

With his reply, Gruver responded to the reaction that they would both receive by reinforcing the idea that their true love would conquer all - the final line of the film:

Yeah. Tell 'em we said, 'Sayonara.'

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