The Ballad of Narayama | Chicago Reader

The Ballad of Narayama

This harsh and beautiful 1983 film by Shohei Imamura (Pigs and Battleships) marks a turning point in his career, away from the violence and confrontationalism of his earlier films and toward an almost Ozu-like acceptance of human fate. The story is set in an impoverished mountain village, where the law of survival requires that every citizen over 70 be put to death to make room for new mouths at the table. Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto in a sublime performance) is approaching the limit but doesn't want to die until she finds a new wife for her widowed son Tatsuhei (Ken Ogata). Imamura's rough sexual humor is still in evidence, but now it has taken on a dark tone: to make love is to flirt with death. The snow that falls in the final scene is a blanket of oblivion, a complex image that offers hope through loss. In Japanese with subtitles. 130 min.

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