In a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.
The enigmatic title is explained near the end, which more or less paraphrases "Ol' Man River" - he just keeps rollin' along, regardless of the follies of man. The films set in the "turbulent century", and was it ever ! The film's two hours covers about 70 years, and there's a battle nearly every five minutes. The large cast of characters, principally of one small family, deal with the age-old problem of the young getting carried away with war and the older warning them how futile it all is. There are a number of deaths which coincide closely with births, and the characters assume they therefore know where the souls have reincarnated.
The war-is-futile message is hammered home without subtlety and, despite the downtrodden gaining occasional triumphs, it's all very depressing. The only character who has a good laugh is killed shortly afterwards, and partly for that reason !
The strange aspect of this film is that it is part-colourized. In many frames, these are simply large splashes of colour laid-over, and they look terrible and amateurish. Other frames have more minute and detailed colorization, which is quite pleasant. But the film would have looked better if it had stuck to B&W only.
The four points I've awarded this film are mainly for the acting, which is good to great throughout. The oval-faced beauty Hideko Takamine is very watchable for the first half at least, but has far less to do than some of her other roles. The actress (name unknown) who plays the pretend-madwoman Tatsu is a standout.
But it takes more than good acting to make a good pic. I cannot recommend this pic.
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