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The Ballad of Narayama [Masters of Cinema] [UK] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Audio Codec: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: 15
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment (Masters of Cinema)
  • Run Time: 101 Mins.
  • Blu-ray Release Date: October 24, 2011
  • RRP: £23.48

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005DDIVFU[/amazon-product]

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

The Ballad of Narayama is legendary Japanese director Shohei Imamura’s (Profound Desires of the Gods, 1968) riveting view of the harsh existence of pre-war rural life in Japan. The 1983 film, set in a rural mountain village is an artful blend of naturalistic drama and dark comedy, highlighting the customs of a people so tied to the land and the cycle of life and death that their customs dictate that when their elderly reach the age of 70, they must leave the village and ascend the mythical Narayama mountain to die, making way for a new life. It is a place where third sons are denied the pleasures of having a wife or any sort of sexual pleasures to keep the population down, unwanted boy children are put to death and girls are sold off for money. In this setting we meet Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) who is approaching her 70th birthday, but before she ascends the mountain to appease the gods of Naraymaya, she must set certain things right with her family. She must find a new bride for her eldest son and teach her all of her secrets of running the household, and she must find a woman to have sex with her third and youngest son for one night only.

Through this frank dark humor, Immamura gives a potent meditation on life, procreation and mortality, He uses the rural village’s harsh mandates, such as capital punishment for theft as a sort of mirror held up against our modern “civilized” society. Narayama is one long reverie that questions whether it is possible for us ever to find utopia.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The transfer of The Ballad of Narayama from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema imprint does have a wonderful film-like quality that comes across with a splendid amount of detail in the brightest of scenes with very little source damage other than a few speckles here and there. The foliage of the mountainous village has an appropriately lush and verdant appearance even though colors aren’t necessarily very saturated. Black levels are deep, but grainy and tend to crush in the darker scenes, losing some detail.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

There isn’t much to say about this lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 monaural soundtrack other than it is punchy and intelligible, but does have some audible crackle from time to time. Other audible warts and limitations are happily kept at a bare minimum.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

There isn’t much provided on disc outside of the the excellent video comment on the film by Tony Rayns. Otherwise the Japanese teasers and trailers are nice, but not must watch material. The booklet, on the other hand, is typically strong reading material.

The supplements provided with this release:

  • Tony Rayns on The Ballad of Narayama (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:19:16) – This 20-minute video piece was shot in London in August 2011 exclusively for the Masters of Cinema Series.
  • Japanese Teaser #1 (1.85:1; 1080p/24)
  • Japanese Teaser #2 (1.85:1 “windowboxed); 1080p/24)
  • Japanese Trailer # 1 (1.85:1; 1080p/24)
  • Japanese Trailer #2 (1.85:1; 1080p/24)
  • DVD
  • Booklet: The booklet contains production stills, the on-set diary from producer Tomoda Jiro, Interview with Imamura Shohei conducted by Max Tessier (1983), Director’s Statement by Imamura Shohei (1983), film credits, and more.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

An immensely powerful and moving film, The Ballad of Narayama is multifaceted quietly beautiful, and subversive in it humor. The transfer from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema isn’t perfect, but it always looks filmic and enjoyable, so I recommend it to anyone in Region B territory or with a Region B capable player.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005DDIVFU[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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