Several young girls in an isolated village are killed successively. Later it is found that the murderer seems to kill them according to a Bouncing Ball Ballad, gradually shown in the film.
Born on November 20, 1915, in Ujiyamada, Mie Prefecture, Ichikawa first gained western recognition during the 1950s and 60s with several bleak films, particularly two acclaimed antiwar films, The Burmese Harp and Fires on the Plain.
Ichikawa began his career as a cartoonist, and collaborated with his wife, screenwriter Natto WADA, until 1965. His films are generally regarded as dark and bleak, interspersed with sparks of humanity, and he often intertwines comedy and tragedy within the same story. He also has a flair for technical expertise, irony, detachment, and a drive for realism across all genres. After Akira KUROSAWA’s departure, no other Japanese director has come close to Ichikawa’s level of recognition, the power of his films, and commercial success.
Ichikawa passed away on February 13, 2008. At age 91 (2006), he was still active as a director, completing a feature-length film, The Inugamis, and directing one segment of the Japanese fantasy, Ten Nights of Dream… read more
Ichikawa's Kindaichi movies are infused with a sense of melancholy and longing for a past that no longer, and never did exist. The books that the films were adapted from were written over a forty plus year period from 1946-1980. This series, made in the seventies, but set in the fifties further deepens the sense of the idealized past with its haunting secrets. It is as if everything takes place in a dream that occurred long ago. It is for this reason that Ichikawa's adaptations do not feel like your typical private eye story. This entry, The Devil's Ballad is soaked in atmosphere and suspense. The action unfolds in a remote village where Kindaichi has been called by an old friend to solve a murder case long frozen over. But the temperature rises once again when the village's beauties are found murdered in succession. It all has something to do with an old folk tale. The direction here is expressionism at its best. The sombre colors, and long takes, the music, they all deliver in creating at atmosphere that is downright spooky. And unlike the issues I had with the running time of The Inugami Family, every minute here is necessary and used wisely. One thing I find interesting about these films is that Kindaichi again is more of a background character, an observer as opposed to a participant. There are no Bogart-esque gunfights or acts of heroic manliness. Only dandruff.