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The Ballad of Narayama in August

Tartan Video have announced the UK DVD release of The Ballad of Narayama on 27th August 2007 priced at £19.99.

In a remote mountain village, the community is facing a food shortage. Fearing that they won’t be able to feed everyone, a decision is made to take all people over the age of 70 up Narayama Mountain where they are left to die. Elderly Orin prepares to make that sacrifice but her son can’t face losing her even though she’s arranging his marriage to a widow. Her grandson, however, can’t wait to see her go, being more concerned with his pregnant girlfriend, who’s now eating for two people. Other families deal with the situation in their own desperate, selfish ways but Orin hopes to find peace by building bridges.

Director Keisuke Kinoshita, renowned for directing Japan’s first colour movie, is a contemporary of Ozu, but remains relatively undiscovered by Western audiences. His films have equally focussed on domestic, family-led stories, often with strong roles for women. Shot in traditional Kabuki theatre style and based on Shichiro Fukuzawa’s tales, The Ballad Of Narayama provides his leading actress Kinuyo Tanaka with one of her most outstanding and award-winning performances. She is also renowned as Japan’s first female film director.

Not surprisingly, Tanaka is one of many actors who also worked with Ozu. She appeared in Equinox Flower alongside Teiji Takahashi, who plays her son and who featured in Tokyo Twilight, and Yûko Mochizuki who starred in Flavour Of Green Tea Over Rice. More famously remade by Shohei Imamura, The Ballad of Narayama is a poignant, amusing meditation on family duty and self-fulfilment.

DVD extras include the original trailer.

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