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

Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Japan  19
58

 

This haunting, kabuki-inflected version of a Japanese folk legend is set in a remote mountain village where food is scarce and tradition dictates that citizens who have reached their seventieth year must be carried to the summit of Mount Narayama and left there to die. The sacrificial elder at the center of the tale is Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka), a dignified and dutiful woman who spends her dwindling days securing the happiness of her loyal widowed son with a respectable new wife. Filmed almost entirely on cunningly designed studio sets, in brilliant color and widescreen, The Ballad of Narayama is a stylish and vividly formal work from Japan’s cinematic golden age, directed by the dynamic Keisuke Kinoshita.

***

Based on the novel by Shichiro Fukuzawa, Narayama Bushiko is a haunting and deeply affecting portrait of love and humanity struggling against the rigidity of tradition, obedience, and sense of duty. Using jarring, anachronistic imagery and unusually stylized artificial lighting, Keisuke Kinoshita presents a relevant examination of the pervasive national ideology of wartime Japan that underscores the dichotomous, and often self-destructive conflict between personal conscience and social conformity: the idiosyncratic fusion of traditional (kabuki) and modern (film) dramatic media; the perversion of cultural and moral norms within the primitive society (disrespect for elders, disposability of life, regression of human logic into base instincts for survival); and the incongruous, final shot that juxtaposes ancient and contemporary images to evoke timelessness, passage, and transience. Inevitably, Narayama Bushiko becomes a haunting allegory on the perils of blind allegiance, martyrdom, and repression - a humanist reflection of the profound introspection, cultural erosion, and ideological ambivalence of postwar Japan.

Excerpt from Strictly Film School located HERE

 

 Theatrical Release: June 1st, 1958

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Comparison:

Tartan - Region 0 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL LEFT 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

   

Distribution Tartan - Region 0 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 645  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:34:09  1:38:30.946
Video 2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.81 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 30,958,116,843 bytes

Feature: 28,864,954,368 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)  LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Tartan

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Trailer

DVD Release Date: June 11th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 30,958,116,843 bytes

Feature: 28,864,954,368 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


Edition Details:
• Trailer and teaser
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp

 

Blu-ray Release Date: February 5th, 2013
Transparent Blu-ray case

Chapters 15

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' Blu-ray - January 2013: The Criterion 1080P takes a wild shift from the Tartan DVD colors looking brighter and more orange - especially notable in the skin tones. I have no idea which is more correct. The Criterion has more information in the frame.  The 'impressionist' feel is far more prominent in the Criterion Blu-ray and some depth is exhibited in a few spots. Audio is via a cleaner linear PCM track and subtitle translations seemed more descriptive. The only extras are some trailer and teasers and a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by Philip Kemp. It remains a deliberately paced piece of cinema -those willing to invest the time will be rewarded.

***

ON THE DVD: Firstly this film should not be confused with the Cannes Palm'D'or winning, Shohei Imamura, version from 1983 reviewed HERE - although both are adapted from the same 1956 Shichirô Fukazawa story.

Not an exceptionally strong image on this Tartan disc but it is both progressive and anamorphic. It is also transferred to a dual-layered DVD. Artifacts are visible and detail is rather weak but the film is almost 50 years old. All things considering it is very watchable, if not stellar, and supports the Japanese audio with optional English subtitles.

Unfortunately only a trailer as a supplements but there is a good 2 page essay by Jasper Sharp in the liner notes.

Some may be familiar with Kinoshita's Tragedy of Japan and Twenty-Four Eyes. I would rate this just as highly and I recommend this DVD based on my enjoyment of the film. 

Gary W. Tooze


Menus

 

1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL LEFT 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT


 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL TOP 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL TOP 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM


1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL TOP 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL TOP 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL TOP 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL TOP 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Tartan - Region 0 - PAL TOP 

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

Box Cover

   

Distribution Tartan - Region 0 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 645  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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