The Ballad of Narayama (1958)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Narayama Bushiko

Japan, 1958.  Shochiku Company.  Screenplay by Keisuke Kinoshita, based on stories by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Not to be confused with the later masterpiece by Shohei Imamura, this is a gorgeously stylized, Kabuki-based interpretation of the Japanese legend.  It tells of a remote village where tradition dictates that elder citizens who reach a certain age are to be taken up a mountain just at the beginning of the coldest winter season and left there to die.  On a series of gorgeously designed, shockingly realistic sets, director Keisuke Kinoshita uses musical narration and meta-theatrical scene transitions to display the story of one family torn apart by custom, the son unwilling to take his mother to her death while she remains ashamed at her good health in her old age, fearing that the other villagers will see her as selfish.  Imamura’s version would be a far more eccentric interpretation of the tale, but this one is certainly memorable for its beautiful colour cinematography and explosive artistic flourishes.

The Criterion Collection:  #645

Venice Film Festival:   In Competition


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