The Ballad of Narayama (Masters of Cinema) DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Shohei Imamura
Produced in 1983
Main Language - Japanese with English subtitles
An unsentimental rumination on mortality and inhumanity, this is also an engrossing study of a remote mountain community's struggles against the natural elements, says Michael Brooke.
One of a tiny handful of filmmakers to win the Cannes Palme d'Or twice, Shohei Imamura first scaled that peak in 1983 with The Ballad of Narayama - an adaptation of two novels by Shichiro Fukazawa.
The film is set in the mid-19th century in a village so cut off from the rest of the world that it's developed its own brutal legal code: stealing scarce food is a capital offence, unwanted babies are either abandoned or bartered, and anyone who survives to 70 is transported to the top of the Narayama mountain to be left to the mercy of the elements. It's a cruel, mud-caked universe, with basic bodily functions blithely carried out in the open – human sexual activity is no different from that of frogs or snakes, and if there's no woman to hand, a nearby dog will suffice. But it's also exceptionally moving, especially in the immensely powerful third act where tradition demands that Tatsuhei (Ken Ogata) carry his mother Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) on his back across terrifyingly rough terrain to allow her to meet her maker.
Michael Brooke on 18th October 2011
Author of 135 reviews
Shohei Imamura won his first Palme d'Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival for The Ballad of Narayama, his transcendent adaptation of two classic stories by Shichiro Fukazawa.
In a small village in a remote valley where the harshness of life dictates that survival overrules compassion, elderly widow Orin is approaching her 70th birthday – the age when village law says she must go up to the mythic Mount Narayama to die. But there are several loose ends within her own family to tie up first.
Creating a vividly realised inverse image of 'civilised' society with typical directness and black humour, Imamura presents an unsentimental rumination on mortality and an engrossing study of a community's struggles against the natural elements. Handled with a masterful control and simplicity, moving effortlessly between the comic and the horrific, The Ballad of Narayama is one of the director's richest works.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 130 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 widescreen
Cat No: EKA70035
Format: DVD+Blu-ray Colour
- 2 discs
- New, restored high-definition transfer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Exclusive new video interview with film scholar Tony Rayns
- Four original Japanese theatrical trailers, including behind-the-scenes footage
- Lavish booklet featuring an interview with Shohei Imamura, excerpts from the producer's on-set diary, rare promotional material and stills, and more!.