Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ballad of Narayama

1958, Japan, 93m

A folk heritage, this story is set in a time and place where food is scarce, and past a certain age, the elderly, to the accompaniment of formality and ritual, voluntary allow themselves to be abandoned atop a mountain top to encounter their death. Orin is such a lady, and over her final months, persuades her loving son to carry her on his back to meet an honorable end. Much of the power of the film derives from the austere string instrument and vocal balladeer accompaniment. It is a film of dignity in the face of elemental sufferings of aging and dying. In a powerful scene, Orin knocks out her teeth which she finds an embarrassment at her age. The movie is stylized, artificial, anthropological, yet universal in its concerns. As a saying goes, rice is life. Awesome.

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