From two-time Palme d’Or-winning director Shohei Imamura comes an unforgettable human drama and a milestone in Japanese Cinema. The Ballad of Narayama is a brutal and haunting meditation on the nature of life, sex and death.
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The promise of spirituality to transcend the violence and the filth. This was also a great subject of Mizoguchi's films in the 50s, but Imamura tackles it from a much more godless angle. This is a stunning vision of the world, spasming with brutality and animal urges, dark but ultimately not cheap or facile. The combination of beauty and ugliness in the final half hour is masterful—and indeed, transcendent.
Beautiful cinematography, and an unsusal story about the survival instincts of a ancient Japanese village. Though sometimes what we see is brutal and irrational (selling children, burying thieving villagers alive), the characters never lose any of their humanity. A lesser director wouldn't have been able to pull off such a feat. The acting is great all around, but Sumiko Sakamoto as Old Orin is a standout.
People and animals occupies the same space in many of Imamura's films. A small village community and surrounding wildlife are impressively depicted in comparison. In this brutal tale, natural elements are one with omnipresent spirituality. To my attention, films in these settings seems unimportant today, but they're not! What this legend inspires is to look beyond daily hardships and embrace life as it is; valuable.
I agree with Rudiger. This film pretty much sucks. How in the world did this win the Palm d'Or? The Kinoshita film is much superior. The same custom is also dealt in a far superior fashion by Kim Ki-young's "Goryeojang."
Embittered that Kinoshita had beaten him to the punch, Imamura found a way to make the abstract fable his own: awash with naturalism and pornographic candor. Primal savagery and vulgar passions mirror the rhythms of Narayama. There's an almost instinctive inevitability to the way the elderly are cast out, making way for the young who must survive at the expense of others. Grotesque, ridiculous, yet unforgettable.
I don't have a firm enough grasp on the essence of what this film is doing to make any definitive comments, but this has to be Imamura's masterpiece, certainly the one which most transcends the clear-cut parameters of his thematic interests. The delicate but potent relationship between human & animal here becomes something else entirely in the face of eternity. We're very close to a spiritual epiphany by its closing.