Kobayashi’s second movie, “Magorko” (1953)

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Ishihama Akira was back (from “My Sons’ Youth“) as a well-behaved son in Kobayashi Masaki’s second movie, the tearjerker “Magorko” (“Sincerity” or “The Sincere Heart,” 1953) scripted by Kinoshita Keisuke. I’d say that the latter also lent his brother, but in addition to a family group singing “Silent Night” and someone dubbing Ishihama singing “Jingle Bells” (both in English), the score seemed to me to consist entirely of arranging music written by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Ishihama played Hiro, a rugby playing boy cramming for his college entrance exam, under heavy pressure from his executive father to pass, and being tutored by an engineer (Takahashi Tiji) engaged to marry his older sister, Midori Hiroshi is captivated by Fumiko (Nozie Hitomi in her screen debut), a healthy looking girl who moves in across the street in a room facing north, so that the plant in her windowsill gets no sunlight. She looks about as much like someone dying of tuberculosis as Greta Garbo did in “Camille” or Nicole Kidman did in “Moulin Rouge” (though Fumiko does not have a big production number in which she sings before expiring.

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Hiro gets his father (Fujio Suga) to pledge to give him money that he intends to use for medical treatment for Fumiko with whom he has never exchanged a single word. He wants to help and his father, not unreasonably, wants to know who it is his son wants to pay for.

Fumiko’s uncle apparently impoverished the family, and Fumiko’s sister attempts to hide from him, though he shows up when she is out, which propels Fumiko to flee out in the snow, where she collapses in front of Hiroshi’s rugby coach (while Hiroshi is on the way to deliver a Christmas present to).

The story is very contrived and very sentimental rather than critical about the differences in life chances of the rich (Hiroshi) and the poor (Fumiko). Morita Toshiyasu (who would also shoot three more movies for Kobayashi) photographed Ishihama in ways that made him look positively radiant, not merely very handsome (Kinoshita Keisuke is the one reputed to be gay, but I have not seen any male character shot so adoringly in any of the many films he directed himself).

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

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