Tartan Keisuke Kinoshita : Narayama bushikô /
The Ballad of Narayama -DVD- (JAP,1958)*****
Just like Im Kwon-taek in South-Korea has succeeded to make a very good movie out of folk opera stories with the movies “Chunhyuang” and “Soponye”, from a much earlier date, Keisuke Kinoshita brilliantly made a movie that keeps all the characteristics of a staging (Japanese) musical theatre, including the brilliant use of artistically and artificial 3D-viewmaster-alike formatted decors, the sudden changing of lights or backgrounds, an experimental approach for a movie of the fifties, the inclusion of some Japanese music singing into certain passages that refer to the story and to the idea of Kabuki theatre with the traditional joruri narrator. The director once had used a reference to Kabuki before (in 1949’s “The Yotsuya Ghost Story”) but here it fused with a lot more ideas. The movie holds the middle between such a theatre stage view, keeping for it the stylistic qualities of such story telling, with the singing style emphasising certain expressions on some emotional moments, it also still shows the realistic background and essence within the whole story in a more comprehensible educative way to a western public as well. The director succeeds to make us comprehend why a poor mountain village tried to get rid of the elderly in times where there was little to eat, and still do something beautiful with the idea, at least not without forgetting to show the reality of being surrounded by some real cruel egoists in the same village as well.
The movie received a so called more realistic version or interpretation of another film in 1983 by Shohei Imamura, while the original in all it’s strange old Japanese theatre stage associations, still could bring over the folk tale well in its most complete form, as a moral folk story. It is a good movie to get also that essence of Japanese music over well. Besides, in the end of the movie, where the main character was supposed to be silent, a Japanese lute improvised his passionate assimilation of the events.