Sincerity features two strong female characters, played by Irie Takako and Murase Sachiko, each of whom have a daughter. The girls are schoolmates, but one (Nobuko) is from a middle-class home and the other (Tomiko) is from a poor family. Tomiko’s mother Tsutako (Irie) is a single mother who works from home as a seamstress, while Nobuko’s mother lives in an elegant home with her husband, Kei. Eventually, it is revealed that Kei had a romantic relationship with Tsutako, and may be Tomiko’s father as well, but he is conscripted shortly after this revelation and goes off to war.
This is very much a home front film, in which the women are involved in supporting activities, and the whole town cheers on the new recruits. As Kei is a banker, he is conscripted as an officer. He is introduced brandishing a magnificent sword, indicating his readiness for his call-up, for which everyone congratulates him when it comes. The wartime context is little more than a backdrop to the story of paternity and former love. The complex emotions among the women are conveyed through cutting on eye movements and eye lines, and through the use of the pastoral location. —Catherine Russell
Mikio Naruse is one of the least known of Japan’s early master directors, both in the West and in Japan, yet he created some of the most moving, darkly beautiful works in Japanese cinema. Like Kenji Mizoguchi, Naruse showed an uncanny understanding for the psychology of women. Like Yasujiro Ozu, he preferred subtle shifts of character over broad strokes of plot. Unlike either of these early greats, however, Naruse’s vision of humanity was much darker and more clinical. He stripped all vestiges of hope or acceptance from his films, what remains is only a willful struggle to endure. His relentlessly negative view of human existence has resulted in Naruse’s often being labeled a nihilist.
Born in Tokyo, in 1905, Naruse was the youngest of three sons of a desperately poor embroiderer. Although he excelled in elementary school, his family could not afford to further his education. He was instead enrolled in a two-year technical school. There, he spent virtually all of his free time… read more