Veteran filmmaker Kaneto Shindô, who was 86 at the time of making this film, tackles the graying of Japan’s population. The film opens with Yasukichi (Rentarô Mikuni), a retired chemist who lives with his middle-aged daughter, Tokuko (Shinobu Ôtake), drunkenly decrying the younger generation’s poor treatment of the elderly in his favorite drink hole. When the bar’s matron (Naoko Otani) admonishes him for being too loud, he continues to drink and rant until he wets himself and passes out on the floor. He wakes up in a hospital, cared for by the doctor (Akira Emoto) who found him out cold in front of the bar. Yasukichi’s loutish behavior suddenly changes. His daughter, however, does not buy it for a second. His drunken tirades have pushed away Tokuko’s siblings and driven her to the brink of mental illness. She tells the old man that if it were up to her, she would leave him at the hospital. The clinic is not, as the doctor points out, a nursing home, and Tokuko grudgingly lets him return. Yet Yasukichi knows that an old folks home is in his future. About the same time, he becomes obsessed with the legend of Obasuteyama village near Nagano, where the elderly are supposedly left to die in the mountains. Yasukichi soon starts to see the nursing home and Obasuteyama’s notorious traditions as being roughly the same. —Jonathan Crow
Japanese filmmaker/scriptwriter Kaneto Shindo’s most famous directorial efforts include The Island (1960), a nearly silent, but powerful glimpse at a lonely farmer’s daily toil, and Children of Hiroshima (1952), a wrenching and sentimental account of the city’s post-bomb aftermath. Shindo was born in Hiroshima and got his start in films as an art director during the late ’30s. Less than a decade later, he wrote his first screenplays and went on to work with a number of Japanese directors, including Kenji Mizoguchi and Kon Ichikawa. In 1950, Shindo was a co-founder of a production company. He made his directorial debut in 1951 with The Story of a Beloved Wife.
He was married to actress Nobuko Otowa (1925–1994), who appeared in several of his films. He won the 1996 Japan Academy Prize for Director of the Year for A Last Note.— allmovie guide