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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

BALLAD OF NARAYAMA (1983)

Shohei Imamura’s Cannes winner is a well-crafted period piece about a tightly-bound rural community in Japan where custom dictates a sacrificial journey to the mountain top when you reach 70. The story line is often incredibly tough-minded with swift/primitive ‘justice’ for families who steal provisions during a time of seasonal shortages and new 'blind' couplings for fertile widows & widowers, even across town lines. The constant juxtaposition of man living in harmony with nature and the brutality needed to survive this life has a natural dramatic pull & fascination to it. And the knowledge that time is swiftly passing for the 69 year-old matriarch of the family we are following adds layers of suspense & humanistic sentiment to the inevitable climax. But Imamura lays on the parallel’s between man & nature; the harshly beautiful land, the unyielding weather & a cornucopia of copulating insects, with a trowel. All the associative elements that we should be discovering on our own, are over-masticated for our edification. Or perhaps to gain points with international film juries.

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