Masaki Kobayashi's first couple films, this and his 45-minute debut "Youth of the Son", were highly influenced by Kobayashi's mentor, Keisuke Kinoshita, who supervised the whole production of "Youth of the Son" and who wrote the screenplay for this film, "Sincere Heart". Kinoshita's films, as I understand, were more sentimental, and that shows in these films. But already with this one, I see Kobayashi starting to come into his own.
"Youth of the Son" was a cute film. It's such an overly joyous affair, it's so corny, that I should have found it cringe-worthy, but I have to admit, it made me smile. It has a similar appeal to that of an Ozu film such as "Good Morning" (and even features favourite Ozu actor Chishû Ryû), but sillier, and not quite on that level of quality. Still, it was a good film. There was just nothing in it that I recognized as Kobayashi. It lacked an edge. It was too benign. There was no angst!
"Sincere Heart" is quite a bit more interesting. The same baby-faced lead actor from "Youth of the Son" is back Akira Ishihama, who I did not realize until afterwards was Motome Chijiiwa in "Harakiri" (!) and for much of the film, "Sincere Heart" feels very much like "Youth of the Son". But then, in the second half, the film reveals its edge. There's a certain cynicism in the film, about class differences, and in this I recognize Kobayashi. But the film is still sentimental, its Kinoshita influence is still strong, and the result of this hybridization of styles is quite an effective little tearjerker.
The film is not as good as Kobayashi's masterpieces "The Human Condition", "Harakiri", "Kwaidan" or "Samurai Rebellion", nor is it the best of his less widely-seen works, but it's an excellent early film that deserves to be seen by more people.
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