19 February 2013 10:15 AM, PST | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

Keisuke Kinoshita’s 1958 classic The Ballad of Narayama gets the Criterion treatment, an experimental film featuring the use of one of Japan’s signature cultural styles, Kabuki Theater, despite its cultural popularity still on the wane post-World War II. But with its exaggeration and extreme stylization, Kinoshita taps into the tragic, melancholy heart of this fable concerning abandonment of the elderly as a socially sanctioned tradition of necessity, as developed by poverty stricken ancestors.

Based on a novel by Shichiro Fukazawa, a subsequent adaptation from new wave Japanese auteur Shohei Imamura was released in 1983, a more horrific and grisly treatment of the source text. But Kinoshita’s kabuki opera, with its grand flourishes and over the top nature still manages to touch on the horrors of inhumane practices, made all the more powerful with a moving lead performance and the haunting score and narration, reminding us constantly of impending death »

- Nicholas Bell

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Ballad of Narayama (1958)
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