With a strong theme of racial injustice, COME SEE THE PARADISE is also a love story about an American whose Japanese-American wife and daughter spend part of WW II in an internment camp. The tale is told from mother to daughter as they leave the camp and are on their way to meet the father.
The film opens in Brooklyn, 1936, but quickly moves to Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, when theater woes mount up for Jack McGann, a sweatshop lawyer for the New York Projectionist Union. Coming west, Jack finds work in the Kawamuro family’s Japanese theater, and after one date with papa’s daughter, Lili, falls madly in love with her.
Lili, who was born in America, fills Jack in on the California laws dealing with business and marriage for people of Japanese descent. Since papa has already arranged a wedding for Lili with one of their own, he fires Jack. Jack, however, takes Lili to Seattle where it is legal to marry, and a daughter is born to them.
Jack obtains work in a fishery, and although he promises Lili no more union troubles, he still feels compelled that someone has got to look out for the interests of the common man. When he’s jailed for participating in a strike, Lili returns to her family. Jack is later paroled and reconciles with his wife.
Then, Pearl Harbor is bombed and the Kawamuro family is sent to an internment camp somewhere in the desert. As for Jack, his parole is annulled and he is drafted. As for the detainees, it is easy to see that the injustices perpetuated against these Japanese-American citizens have been designed by the director to play on the viewer’s emotions–their Americanism is highlighted by their playing of baseball, or imitating of the Lemon Sisters.
The real test, though, comes when they must decide how to sign a loyalty questionnaire. One Kawamuro son chooses to fight for the U.S., while the other chooses to paint on his body a rising sun (emblem of Japan). Adhering staunchly to her Americanism, mother Kawamuro observes that though he does this “on the outside, no one changes on the inside.”
Finally, the Supreme Court rules that the camps are unconstitutional. At last, Lili and daughter are reunited with Jack.
COME SEE THE PARADISE has its moments, most of which are in the sweet love story between Jack and Lili (that is, if you overlook the implausible quickness with which Jack falls in love with Lili, and the fornication they commit before getting married). On another level, the film makes clear that it is Jack’s uncontrollable rage that gets him into union trouble, but this pales in comparison to the public’s rage directed against Japanese-Americans.
Yes, all are citizens, but, without God, they are a people without hope. As mother Kawamuro says, “Sometimes it is better to die than to keep up life.” Quite innocently does Lili glimpse the Christian message. The scene occurs when a Japanese man, disgraced by a quarrel with his wife, commits suicide to preserve honor. “Why,” Lili wants to know, “didn’t they just make up?”
For the Japanese, America is the paradise they have come to see. For America, a country founded through the guiding light of Christ, our responsibility is to tell them of a far greater paradise found only in Jesus. The Oscar chances for COME SEE THE PARADISE are good, but close to 40 instances of obscenity or profanity hurts the movie’s chances with moral Americans of every race.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please address your comments to:
Mr. Barry Diller
20th Century Fox
P.O. Box 900
Beverly Hills, CA 90213
Approximately 28 obscenities and 10 profanities; promiscuity; brief gambling; and, arson