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The Ballad of Narayama (1958)

Narayama bushikô (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 19 June 1961 (USA)
A kabuki theatre-inflected story about a poor village whose people have to be carried to a nearby mountain to die once they get old.

Director:

Keisuke Kinoshita
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6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Kinuyo Tanaka ... Orin
Teiji Takahashi ... Tatsuhei
Yûko Mochizuki Yûko Mochizuki ... Tamayan
Danko Ichikawa Danko Ichikawa ... Kesakichi
Seiji Miyaguchi ... Mata-yan
Keiko Ogasawara Keiko Ogasawara ... Matsu-yan
Yûnosuke Itô Yûnosuke Itô ... Matayan's son
Eijirô Tôno ... Messenger
Ken Mitsuda Ken Mitsuda ... Teruyan
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Storyline

In Kabuki style, the film tells the story of a remote mountain village where the scarcity of food leads to a voluntary but socially-enforced policy in which relatives carry 70-year-old family members up Narayama mountain to die. Granny Orin is approaching 70, content to embrace her fate. Her widowed son Tatsuhei cannot bear losing his mother, even as she arranges his marriage to a widow his age. Her grandson Kesa, who's girlfriend is pregnant, is selfishly happy to see Orin die. Around them, a family of thieves are dealt with severely, and an old man, past 70, whose son has cast him out, scrounges for food. Will Orin's loving and accepting spirit teach and ennoble her family? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

19 June 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ballad of Narayama See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Shochiku See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Fujicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the final film to be added to Roger Ebert's list of "Great Movies" before his death on April 4, 2013 at the age of 70. See more »

Connections

Remade as The Ballad of Narayama (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Imamura's version is a bit better, but this one's great, too
24 February 2013 | by zetesSee all my reviews

I had seen Shohei Imamura's version of this novel a few years ago, and it ranks as one of my favorite films. This earlier version, presented as a sort of kabuki-like play, loses a bit of its power because it streamlines the narrative a bit (not that I've read it; I suppose Imamura could have added details), but it's quite a wonder itself. The focus is more on the grandmother, the old woman who is to be taken and then abandoned on Narayama, here played by Kinuyo Tanaka. Teiji Takahashi (who acted in several Ozu films) plays her son, the man who is reluctant to follow the tradition. The acting is very good, though obviously stylized. What one will probably most remember about this version of the story is the gorgeous, painterly cinematography. It's all deliberately artificial, with a lot of painted backdrops and seamless scene transitions (Joe Wright's recent Anna Karenina adaptation may have been directly influenced by it). One moment that I found unintentionally funny: a bunch of crows are startled at one point and start to fly around, and a couple of them run into the matte painting in the background and have to turn around. The film is quite a wonder to behold, and the emotional heft of the story still works. It's certainly a nice companion piece to Imamura's masterpiece.


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