Narayama bushiko (Ballad of Narayama) (1958)



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Movie Info

Adapted from a novel by Shichiro Fukazawa, The Ballad of Narayama is built around an ancient Japanese custom. Centuries ago, it was customary for the younger citizens of a remote Japanese mountain village to shepherd all those over the age of seventy to the snowy crags of Mt. Narayama. There the elders would be left to die from exposure and starvation--a fate they were expected to meet with stoic resignation. As the film observes, this custom was not universally accepted even in ancient times: Some of the old folks put up a physical struggle against their exile, others accept the inevitable under verbal protest, and some of the younger relatives question whether they have the right to go along with this questionable "cleansing" process. Heartbreakingly brilliant, The Ballad of Narayama was remade in 1983; the latter version won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Narayama bushiko (Ballad of Narayama)

All Critics (6)

Modern audiences may find it difficult to adjust to its laconic pace, but it is a stirring tale, full of dignity and sorrow, and worth checking out for sure.

Apr 15, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

a striking experimental mixture of Japanese folklore, theatrical traditions, and stunning camerawork

Mar 6, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

It is unquestionably one of the most beautiful films I have seen, every shot is designed, composed, lit and photographed to perfection.

Mar 4, 2013 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Criticized by some as too conservative, this version, while less powerfully dramatic than Imamura's, nevertheless finds its own, different level of resonance.

Mar 4, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Kinoshita's use of color is spectacular.

Mar 11, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

Awesome Japanese classic.

Sep 7, 2001 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Narayama bushiko (Ballad of Narayama)


Wow, that was horrible. Can't believe I actually sat through it. Good, but horrible. Although, truthfully I can think of a few 70+ people I know who could do with going up that mountain!

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


A brilliant and methodically made and enacted Japanese classic. This was also the last of the "Great Films" in the great Roger Ebert's film reviews section. The film is one of sadness and the ending of life, an era that will lead to new beginnings hopefully. I believe it will, like the film portrays, mean the Mr Ebert is in a better place now.

Chris Browning
Chris Browning

Super Reviewer


finally caught up with the original version of this and it's much different than imamura's stylistically but at least equally worth watching. staged very formally like a kabuki play with obviously fake backdrops and dramatic scene changes, it seems a more appropriate treatment for the legendary subject matter. mizoguchi's long time muse, kinuyo tanaka plays the still hearty elderly mother resigned to her fate

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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