The Ballad of Narayama (Narayamabushi-ko)

One of several young directors who began to realize their talent directly after the war with novel experiments in style, Keisuku Kinoshita applies techniques of the Kabuki theater to this version of an age-old tale into which are woven elemental conflicts of hunger and plenty, age and youth, cruelty and kindness, and the traditional preoccupation of the Japanese family with filial duty. According to Japanese folk legend, there existed remote mountain areas where, in times of famine, villagers abandoned their oldest citizens to the elements so that the young would have enough food to survive. Seventy-year-old Orin begs her son to take her to the mountaintop, which he does with great protestation. Kinoshita is less concerned with the barbarous custom (“absolutely unauthenticated” according to Donald Richie), than with the struggles of the son and the other villagers, all of whom deal with the problem differently.

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