films seen
average score
Alive and kicking
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The Ballad of Narayama

Narayama Bushikô
1983 / 130m - Japan
The Ballad of Narayama poster

Certainly not the worst Imamura, though I don't think I'll ever become a fan of his work. Like most of his films, the acting is quite crude and unsubtle, with symbolism layered on thick. What saved this film from anonymity for me is the interesting finale, which is easily the best part of the film.

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The film follows a fictitious (folklore-based) community living on a mountain in northern Japan. When their members turn 70, they have to climb the neighboring mountain, where death awaits them. This sacrifice is supposed to bring good fortune to their children. Orin spends her entire 69th year preparing for the big trip, making sure her kids are ready for a life without her.

The first 90 minutes is spent exploring the community and its people. There's a lot of intercourse (between people, between animals and even some interspecies fidgeting) and a lot of poverty as people try their best to survive in the town. The trip up the mountain really calms things down and finally there's some true beauty shining true. It's a film that has its moments, but there's not enough of them to turn this into a worthwhile classic.

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge

Akai Hashi no Shita no Nurui Mizu
2001 / 119m - Japan
Comedy, Drama
Warm Water Under a Red Bridge poster

Black Rain

Kuroi Ame
1989 / 123m - Japan
Drama, War
Black Rain poster

Imamura's Hiroshima-based drama deals with some dark and tough topics, but it would've benefited greatly from more subdued performances. For a drama, it's way too loud and heavy-handed. It seems to be a returning factor in Imamura's films, so maybe he's just not my kind of director.

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Yasuko is present on the day of the Hiroshima bombing. She witnesses the event from afar, but gets exposed to the "black rain", which is heavily contaminated. She returns to her village, where she is shunned by the other villagers. Her guardians try to set up a marriage for Yasuko, but they have trouble finding any men who are interested.

The stark black and white cinematography is definitely appropriate, but it makes the film look older than it really is. The village drama isn't all that interesting and the performances are too over-the-top, making it hard to get really into the film. There's definitely potential here, but Imamura's direction doesn't really do the topic any justice.

Vengeance Is Mine

Fukushû Suru wa Ware ni Ari
1979 / 139m - Japan
Crime, Drama
Vengeance Is Mine poster