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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 Teiji Takahashi ... Tatsuhei
Yûko Mochizuki Yûko Mochizuki ... Tamayan
Danko Ichikawa Danko Ichikawa ... Kesakichi
Seiji Miyaguchi 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 Company 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

 
Analyzing Great Art Is Impossible. All You Can Do Is Admit It And Wonder
22 September 2018 | by bobliptonSee all my reviews

In a small mountain village, Kinuyo Tanaka is doing her duty. She has gotten a new bride for her widowed son, Teiji Takahashi and made her new daughter welcome, showing her the secret spot where she fishes for trout. She has broken her teeth. When she turns 70 and the New Year comes, she will have her son carry her to the mountain Narayama and leave her there. Everyone is happy about this, except her son and her daughter-in-law whom she has treated so kindly, but that's the way of this poor, hungry ritual-bound place.

A great movie shows you something new, and Keisuke Kinoshita showed me many things I had never seen before, and showed me many images from other Japanese movies in a new light. All the writing on this movie refers to it as "kabuki influenced", and I know almost nothing of that save a few scenes and glimpses in other movies. I am uncertain of what it means, but it affected me greatly. What more can one ask of any work of art.

One .... well, let's call it technique that Kinoshita uses was to shoot everything on sets, clearly marked as sets, with beautifully painted backdrops. It placed me in an artificial world, one of symbolic fiction, where the artist can examine those things which are too distressful to look at directly: thus the sexuality in DRACULA, in an era when sex could not be discussed, or the question of what makes a human in FRANKENSTEIN, or how to restore order in the universe in a well-made murder mystery, or the dangers of the world in a fairy tale.

Perhaps this limited, stage-like setting is essential to kabuki. If so, it might explain something in a few Japanese movies I have seen, most notably in Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW. In that movie, all the action in the first half takes place on a single set, bound almost like a proscenium arch, while the second half takes place all around Tokyo. Is the first act all a matter of story and the second, out in the real world? Can art and fantasy affect reality.

I don't know. This movie is too raw in mind and heart to sit here, plucking out bits and pieces of technique like the academic analyst I have been all my adult life. Sometimes when a movie show you something new, it's meaningless nonsense. That's when I can analyze it. Sometimes, it overwhelms you and leaves you wondering, and that's when it's great.


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