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Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Ballad of Narayama (1952) d. Keisuke Kinoshita

The Ballad of Narayama: Fun little movie about abandoning your Mom to be eaten by crows on a mountain top.

Movie Review
The Ballad of Narayama (1958)
d. Keisuke Kinoshita
Criterion Collection #645

  Fun little picture about the ancient Japanese practice of abandoning one's elderly parents to die in the wilderness, The Ballad of Narayama is known equally for its distinctive visual presentation, influenced directly by the conventions of Japanese theater, and its utterly depressing subject matter.  When you combine the subject matter with the pan-Japanese cinema tradition of holding shots for minutes at a time, you get a movie that feels much, much, much longer then the 90 minute run time would leave you to believe.

 The Ballad of Narayama is shot entirely on sound stages, with a breathtaking use of lighting and color to create a visual atmosphere that would feel contemporary today.  On the other hand, nothing could be LESS contemporary then the subject matter. I don't shy away from dark films, but watching a 90 minute picture about a family making a conscious decision to abandon their elderly mother to be eaten by birds takes you to a really, really, really dark place, and I'm not sure why anyone would really want to watch this movie.


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