Komatsu’s Sayonara Jupiter Is A Doozy!
Sayonara Jupiter, also known as Bye-Bye Jupiter. was made in Japan by Sakyo Komatsu in 1984. On Wikipedia, it says that Komatsu “was one of the most well-known and highly regarded science fiction writers in Japan.” I’m wondering whether the author of the wiki entry saw Sayonara Jupiter. It’s not that Sayonara Jupiter is a bad movie… well, it is a bad movie, but it is also several other strange things.
The two different titles are appropriate in that the Japanese, people in the film speak Japanese and the non-Japanese characters, of which there are many, speak their respective languages. The Germans speak German and The French speak French, which sounds appropriate enough, but they stick to their respective languages when they converse with each other. So you get a French character speaking French to a Japanese character who then speaks Japanese back at him. There’s even a sex scene between a Japanese man who moans breathlessly in Japanese while making love to a woman of indeterminate origin who breathes back in English with a French accent.
While we are on the topic of the sex scene, the encounter starts conventionally enough, but then a blue spotlight turns on and the bed starts rotating. Then the woman of indeterminate origin asks the Japanese man to turn off the gravity, causing them to float around the room like a scene from Barbarella. OK, I suppose I would do the same if I were in orbit, but then for reasons unknown, the ship dissolves away and they fly around space naked, professing their love for each other in their respective languages. Nothing surreal or bizarre has happened in the film up to this point, and all of a sudden, we are flying by a stock photo of the Horse Head Nebula in the nude. It’s just one of many surprising and abrupt changes the movie throws at its audience.
As a whole Sayanora Jupiter is a mixture of Star Wars, 2001, and Disney’s Black Hole. Every time I think of the movie The Black Hole that damn theme music plays in my head. Da Da Da wah da da da! over and over again. It’s gonna be a long day writing this article. The incorporation of these three films is not blended well. They are not references so much as copyright infringements. Perhaps some of the stills from Sayonara Jupiter I have provided below will look familiar.
There are also several moments when the astronauts are watching TV and we get to see clips from Godzilla vs King Ghidorah and a random chanbara starring Toshiro Mifune. Near the beginning of Sayonara Jupiter, there is a bizarre montage where we see people rioting and destroying machinery, intercut with Godzilla and Ghidorah duking it out. Sparks fly and little bolts of electricity pop in both films, making transitions almost seamless and therefore very confusing.
The music director, Kentarō Haneda, deserves an award for writing a soundtrack that seamlessly blends all the themes from 2001, Star Wars, and The Black Hole while keeping each one recognizable. Sayonara Jupiter is a weird trip. McDonald’s has some product placement with a burger and fries floating weightless in the cockpit, but on the Big Mac’s packaging, it says “humburger,” the phonetic pronunciation for hamburger in Japanese. I feel like this sums up the attitude of the film nicely. It brings together multicultural elements and leaves them unblended in a bowl to see what happens.
You get the giant ship fly-over from the opening of Star Wars, and the trippy special effects tunnel from 2001. HAL makes a few appearances too. He still has his sonorous tone, but his name is now Navajo. There is also the scene where the stewardess walks up the walls, but now she is in a kimono. The window into the future that Sayonara Jupiter provides also includes floppy discs and shoulder pads, but you never know when 1980s fashion might come roaring back. People are still buying cassette tapes for some reason.
The premise and plot of Sayonara Jupiter are hard to make sense of. As far as I can tell, humans have colonized the solar system. Unfortunately, the Sun does not provide enough energy to the outer planets, so the world government decides to set the planet Jupiter on fire and make a second sun. However, there is a group of radical environmental terrorists on Earth who want to foil this plan.
The environmentalists are led by a Japanese Jerry Garcia impersonator who gathers them on the beach to lay around half-naked and sing horribly saccharine songs, while nature montages composed from stock footage of flowers and frolicking animals play on the screen. It’s pretty hard to bear.
There are several lookalikes in the film. Carmen Sandiego makes an appearance and the evil sensei from The Karate Kid too. Oh, and Flipper makes an appearance, as Jerry Garciasan’s pet dolphin named Jupiter. Brief spoiler alert, Jupiter gets killed by a badly made plastic shark, and as Garcia-san kneels over Jupiter’s very bloody corpse, he picks up his guitar and sings Bye Bye Jupiter in some kind of weird attempt at metaphorical foreshadowing. Then comes the slow-motion love montage featuring stock footage of a dolphin doing tricks, mixed with footage of Garcia-san playing with him.
Then while exploring Jupiter in a spaceship that looks like it was designed to find a g-spot, they discover lines on the surface that look like the Nazca lines in Peru. They also find a giant cyborg kaiju whale swimming around in the red eye of Jupiter’s storm. While all this is happening, some other dudes are in a ship that gets sucked into a black hole resulting in the trippy 2001 special effects mentioned before.
Weird plot aside, it’s the bizarre film-craft choices that are most memorable. A parting scene between two characters inexplicably becomes an expressionistic, minimalist ballet in a shadowy, white plane of infinity. There’s no explanation, no setup, just a ballet scene that suddenly appears on screen and then is never heard from again as if nothing happened.
The end of the film has the cyborg humpback whale singing a farewell whale song as he floats away into the black hole. I wonder if this is where Gene Roddenberry got his inspiration for Star Trek IV.
Sayonara Jupiter is a tasty smörgåsbord of crazy. There are plenty of kooky things I left out, like the soul brother with a white and purple tipped mullet, and all the closeup shots of sweaty-browed people staring at computer screens. It’s got a little somethin’ for everyone, or for almost everyone, or for weirdos like me who like insane movies like this.
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