Then & Now

Ballad of Narayama

Keisuke Kinoshita was already an established and respected film director when he decided to make this heartwarming and, at times, bittersweet tale about love, loss and traditions.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of traditions in Japanese culture. They act as a sort of signpost, providing guidance and moral direction in a world seemingly devoid of those qualities.  Kinoshita was highly prolific, turning out some 42 films in the first 23 years of his extraordinary career.  Although lesser known than some of his contemporaries, such as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, he was nonetheless a household figure in his home country, beloved by both critics and audiences from the 1940s through the 1960s.  His unique style and willingness to look at different sides of any given issue captured the fundamental essence of Japanese culture.  His most successful and best-known film was “Nijushi No Hitomi” (Twenty-Four Eyes), which won the Kinema Jumpo Award, one of Japan’s top film prizes, as the best movie of 1954.  What sets the story apart from conventional melodrama is the way in which it follows the relationship between a female teacher and her 12 pupils over the course of three decades, including the heartbreak and devastation of World War II.
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