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Survivor Ballads: 3 Films By Shohei Imamura Blu-ray Review

“Survivor Ballads: 3 Films By Shohei Imamura” showcases the filmmaker’s versatility.

Thanks to the fine folks at Arrow Video, Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamura gets a loving tribute with this 3 film collection that contains “The Ballad Of Narayama,” “Zegen” and “Black Rain.” 

1983’s “The Ballad Of Narayama” (not to be confused with the more famous 1958 version by Keisuke Kinoshita) has an almost “Logan’s Run” esque story about a hardship filled mountain village where people that turn 70 are taken to the top of Mt. Narayama to die. The story focuses on an elderly woman (Orin) who is approaching 70. In the lead up to her final days, she gets her family affairs in order (including her son Tatsuhei). It may sound strange and dark on paper, but ‘Narayama’ turns out to be an emotional film about family, sacrifice, nature and, above all, humanity. The film also looks positively stunning thanks to the picturesque cinematography.

“Zegen” is both a satire of Japan’s colonial expansion and a loose biopic of Iheiji Muraoka. The film begins with Muraoka arriving in Hong Kong seeking work. He starts out as a barber, but this Japanese loyalist’s career takes a turn when he begins to become a sex trafficker. There’s more to the story, but his crazy life story has to be seen to be believed. It’s an out there movie and this melding of satire and biopic (not to mention the subject matter) may not work for everyone, but it’s a bold movie that shows Imamura’s range nonetheless.

1989’s “Black Rain” (which is exceedingly different from the previous 2 films) is arguably Imamura’s masterpiece. The film begins in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 with a gut wrenching sequence of the atomic bomb going off before jumping ahead to 1950. In this time period, the plot follows couple Shigematsu and Shigeko who are living with their niece Yasuko (who is essentially become their daughter) in a peaceful village. The two are trying to find Yasuko a suitor, but there is concern that she may have radiation poisoning. Shot in B&W, this is a truly heavy and haunting film about humanity, horrors, death, and the atomic bomb aftermath. It’s not a movie you will forget.


Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How do the films look? All 3 films have been given crisp new hi-def prints. You can’t ask for better transfers

Audio Track: Japanese 1.0 PCM. How do the films sound? Expect nice clean Mono tracks.

* Theatrical trailers, teaser trailer, original Japanese press kit and image gallery for “The Ballad Of Narayama.”
* A booklet with photos, credits, an essay by author Tom Mes.
* A video appreciation on all 3 films by film critic Tony Rayns
* Commentary on  all 3 films by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp.
* Image gallery for “Zegen.”
* Theatrical trailer, image gallery and Original Japanese press kit for “Black Rain.”
* Alternate ending for “Black Rain.”
* Archival “Black Rain” interviews with Yoshiko Tanaka and Takshi Miike.

May 3, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , ,

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