The Ballad of Narayama
The Ballad of Narayama • Drama, Independent
Throughout the 1980s, Shohei Imamura (The Pornographers, Profound Desires of the Gods), a leading figure of the Japanese New Wave era of the 1960s, cemented his international reputation as one of the most important directors of his generation with a series of films that all competed at Cannes to great critical acclaim.
Based on an ancient folktale, The Ballad of Narayama (1983) was the first of two works from the director to win the prestigious Cannes Palme d'Or. Imamura's magnum opus depicts the members of an extended farming family eking out their existence in the mountainous north of Japan against the backdrop of the changing seasons before village lore decrees they make the sacrifice of abandoning their aged mother on the top of a nearby mountain when she reaches her seventieth year.
This work epitomises the director's almost documentary style of filmmaking, exposing the vulgar yet vibrant and instinctive underbelly of Japanese society through a sympathetic focus on peasants, prostitutes, criminal lowlife and other marginalised figures to explore the schism between the country's timeless premodern traditions and the modern face it projects to the world.