Watching this movie is an ambivalent experience. The people are kinda funny and sometimes act like the Three Stooges. Then you see a dead baby lying in the dirt or a whole family kidnapped and promptly buried alive. The Ballad Of Narayama is based on a 1956 novel and is the second film adaptation of that novel. It takes place in a village where food is so scarce that among other things it is necessary to banish those who reach the age of 70 to the top of the neighboring mountain. In fact, it has become a religious experience to go the top of the mountain where the god that resides there will see to you.

There really isn’t any story to speak of except that of the old woman of 69 who is still in good shape, but wants to leave for the mountain. So much so, that she deliberately knocks out a majority of her teeth by bashing them against stone. While the story moves toward her eventual journey we see how those in the town live no better than the animals that surround them. In fact, director Shohei Imamura cuts between them and animals procreating, giving birth, and eating one another frequently. My favorite scene is when someone in the town kills a rabbit only to have a hawk snatch it up before he can pick it up.

There is something goofy and moving about this film, but ultimately it didn’t do much for me.

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