(out of 5)
Original title: Narayama-bushi ko
This masterpiece by Shohei Imamura satisfies on every level, including its story’s dramatic, tragic and comedic elements, a visual style that is natural and crafted at the same time, and a languorous pace that is in line with the best of art-house cinema. In a tiny peasant village in Japan of yore, an age-old tradition of sending the elderly to the nearby mountain of Narayama to die when they turn 70 is enforced by an old woman looking to honour her family’s past. She also longs to right the wrong that was done when her husband abandoned her and her children rather than do the same thing to his own mother. Her sons are a sharp contrast with each other, one sober and responsible and the other oversexed and unruly, both of them weaving in and out of the lives of the locals as they fight the very earth around them for survival. Imamura allows all the elements of life to burst out in full colour, from the overwhelming joy of family living, the bawdy pleasures of ripe sexuality and the harsh reality of human violence, all of them mirrored by images of the natural world experiencing all three of these states of being. The acting is incredible to an almost documentary-like degree, while the ending will stick in your mind forever.
Directed by Shohei Imamura
Screenplay by Shohei Imamura, based on the novel by Shichiro Fukazawa
Music by Shinichiro Ikebe
Production Design by Goro Kusakabe
Costume Design by Kyoto Isho