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(aka 'The Ballad of Narayama' or 'Narayama bushiko')

Directed by Shohei Imamura
Japan  1983

Cinematic anthropologist extraordinaire Shōhei Imamura won his first Palme d’Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival for The Ballad of Narayama [Narayama bushikō], his transcendent adaptation of two classic stories by Shichirō Fukazawa.


In a small village in a remote valley where the harshness of life dictates that survival overrules compassion, elderly widow Orin is approaching her 70th birthday – the age when village law says she must go up to the mythic Mount Narayama to die. But there are several loose ends within her own family to tie up first.


Creating a vividly realised inverse image of “civilised” society with typical directness and black humour, Imamura presents a bracingly unsentimental rumination on mortality and an engrossing study of a community’s struggles against the natural elements. Handled with a masterful control and simplicity, moving effortlessly between the comic and the horrific, The Ballad of Narayama is one of the legendary director’s deepest, richest works, and ranks among the finest films of its decade.

***

The great legacy of Japanese cinema finds in Imamura a gifted heir. From Mizogushi and Ozu to Kurosawa and Oshima, Japanese film-making has created a whole tradition which has acquired universal acclaim due to its immense insight and contribution to world cinema. Imamura retains and above all preserves most of the elements typical of the Japanese cinematic culture, having already created some astonishing pieces of work. From the magnificent The Profund Desire of the Gods to Eijanaika and his latest compelling Black Rain (not to be confused with Ridley Scott's film) Imamura has already established himself as Japan's finest contemporary director.

The Balled of Narayama is an exemplary feature of Imamura's cinematic genre. Indeterminately set in the past, it highlights the traditions and mores of an isolated mountainous village which dictate to a seventy-year old widow that she has to go up to the mountain and await her death. This does not inhibit her from concerning herself with the future of her sons. One has to find a new wife since he's widowed, another hasn't been with a woman before, and the third one needs to be taught manners. The director focuses on the processes by which she attempts to realize these tasks in juxtaposition with her obligation to the laws of her community.

Excerpt from Spiros Gangas of the Edinburgh Film Society website located HERE.

Posters

Theatrical Release: April 29th, 1983 - Tokyo

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Comparison:

Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC vs. Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Masters of Cinema (Dual Format) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

1) Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC LEFT

2) Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC Masters of Cinema - Spine #24 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:09:40  2:09:40  2:10:04.546
Video 1.84:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.81 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 
1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.13 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 42,402,991,946 bytes

Feature: 36,634,908,672 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

IV

Bitrate:

Animeigo

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0)  Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0)  DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 779 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 779 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps /
16-bit)
Subtitles English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, None English (Full, Limited or captions only), None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Intercontinental Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.84:1

Edition Details:

• Photo Gallery
• Trailers for 3 films
• 2-page liner notes in Chinese

DVD Release Date: October 13th, 2005

Keep Case inside cardboard box
Chapters: 9

Release Information:
Studio: Animeigo

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• Program notes

• Photo Gallery
• Trailers

DVD Release Date: June 10th, 2008

Keep Case
Chapters: 21

Release Information:
Studio: Masters of Cinema

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 42,402,991,946 bytes

Feature: 36,634,908,672 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Exclusive new video interview with scholar Tony Rayns (19:17)
• Four original Japanese theatrical trailers, including behind-the-scenes footage
• A 44-page full-colour booklet containing a 1983 director’s statement by Sh˘hei Imamura; a newly translated 1983 interview with Imamura conducted by Max Tessier; the newly translated production diary for the film kept by producer Jir˘ Tomoda; a wide selection of rare production stills; and facsimile imagery from the film’s original Japanese press book.

NTSC DVD of the Feature

Blu-ray Release Date: October 24th, 2011
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 16

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema (Dual Format) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - October 11': It's a pretty dramatic improvement over the less-than-stellar DVDs. The Masters of Cinema disc is darker with richer colors. There is some nice grain, contrast almost achieves moiring via the pitch black-levels without achieving it. There is more information in the frame on the 1.85:1 aspect ratio Blu-ray. Overall, it's like seeing the film afresh. It's dual-layered and progressive and very much in-line with what we have come to expect from the, precise and professional, MoC group.

The DVDs both had some rough patches in the audio (either inherent in the production or the best source available) and while they still seem to exist and much smoother and far less noticeable via the DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel stereo at 779 kbps. It has no response depth as the film doesn't demand it - but we can trust the lossless sound is the best available - despite limitations of the production. There are new, optional English subtitles in a clean and clear white font. The Blu-ray disc is region 'B'-locked.

Supplements, predictably, advance beyond the SD releases and include an exclusive new, 20-minute, video interview with scholar Tony Rayns discussing Sh˘hei Imamura and the production while including interesting details. There are four original Japanese theatrical trailers and a wonderful 44-page full-color booklet containing a 1983 director’s statement by Sh˘hei Imamura; a newly translated 1983 interview with Imamura conducted by Max Tessier; the newly translated production diary for the film kept by producer Jir˘ Tomoda; a wide selection of rare production stills; and facsimile imagery from the film’s original Japanese press book. The Dual Format Blu-ray package contains a dual-layered NTSC DVD of the Feature film also containing the same extras.

This director's films are some of the most interesting - afraid of taboos and fringe topics - and I think this is a fantastic choice for the Masters of Cinema to have undertaken in the new format. We finally have a home theater release that is closer to film and the extras are important to Imamura fans. Strongly recommended! 

***

ADDITION: Animeigo - Region 1- NTSC June 08': This new Animeigo edition is dual-layered and is superior to the old, now out-of-print, I.V. release in every area. It has less artifacts, is smoother, slightly better skin tones and is progressive (where the single-layered Region 3 release is interlaced - see 'combing' in last capture!). Aside from the interlacing the I.V. wasn't a decidedly poor image but the Animeigo trumps it.

Subtitles are certainly more thorough and give the three-tired option of 'Full', 'Limited' or 'captions only'. This effort is much appreciated. The font is a bit heavy and bright yellow but these are my only complaints.

Both sport a fairly clear (some hiss), yet unremarkable, 2.0 channel Japanese audio track.

The Animeigo jumps ahead in the supplement department with some static screen program notes to augment the trailers and gallery.

The Animeigo is a good edition and I'm very happy they didn't mess it up. It's clean and progressive - looks about as good as it will for the time being - and some effort has been put into the subtitle translation(s). Yes, recommended - the film has grown on me quite a bit over the years. More than just Imamura fans should indulge!

***

ON THE INTERCONTINENTAL VIDEO: Considering this is a non-progressive image (see combing sample - last capture) it doesn't look too bad. Anamorphic and tight to the frame it sports adequate if not stellar subtitle translations. It may be a shade soft at times but colors look true and muted and contrast is more than acceptable. No applicable extras to contend with but for the calibre of director and film this is an exceptional price-to-value ratio. Probably one of my biggest complaints is against the cover design. At $14 though we still recommend.

Gary W. Tooze

 


Menus

 

Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC LEFT vs. Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT


 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 


Subtitle Sample

 

1) Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC TOP

2) Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


Combing evident on the Intercontinental Video DVD release...
 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 

DVD Box Cover

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

Distribution Intercontinental Video - Region 3 - NTSC Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC Masters of Cinema - Spine #24 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray




 

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