The story: Yuzo and his fiancée Masako spend their Sunday afternoon together, trying to have a good time on just thirty-five yen. They manage to have many small adventures, especially because Masako’s optimism and belief in dreams is able to lift Yuzo from his realistic despair.
Kurosawa often quoted William Wyler, Frank Capra and John Ford among his influences. One Wonderful Sunday is his most Capraesque work. This tale of young lovers is shamelessly romantic and perhaps over-sentimental. This is particularly evident near the end, when the woman breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience in a screening room to applaud his lover, who stands on a stage on an empty amphitheatre, unable to believe in his own fantasy of orchestrating a Schumann symphony.
This ending was apparently a failure as no audiences, apart from allegedly the French ones, participated in it. This raises an interesting question – when exactly does a film auteur go to far?
The excess of this scene, on the other hand, balanced by a prior sequence that takes place at his apartment. Sad and frustrated, the man frightens his sweetheart by jumping on her, threatening to have his way with her. She runs out of the flat, but only momentarily. She does, eventually, return, and the two quickly make up. Yet, Kurosawa lingers on the wait, as experienced by the man, in silence. Arguably, this scene is downright overstretched.
Yet, this decision has its purpose. It encourages the viewer to feel the frustration and anguish experienced by the male lead.
Perhaps I particularly identified with this sequence because a similar thing happened to me a few times in my life…
Ultimately, I forgive Kurosawa’s excesses because he genuinely believes in the tools of expression that are exclusive to the cinematic art. This is also why music, imagined by the lovers or overheard in the world of the story, is so important in the film. It is not only a punctuation, it is an active agent in the movie.
And while One Wonderful Sunday may not be his best work, it is quietly influential.
Taking place only during the course of one day, the film anticipates works of the French New Wave, like Breathless and Cléo from 5 to 7, while remaining comfortably within the range of expressions of the more traditionalist cinema of the aforementioned Frank Capra and, even, D.W. Griffith, the director who made the original movie that inspired One Wonderful Sunday.