Jiro Tomoda

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The Ballad Of Narayama Review


Excellent
As you make your way through previous winners of the Cannes Film Festival's Palme D'Or, be sure to stop at 1983 to watch The Ballad of Narayama, a remarkable comedy/drama that lives up to that overused adjective: haunting. Director Shohie Imamura, who left behind a remarkable body of work before his death in 2006, is well-served by a 2008 remastered DVD that captures the film's beauty effectively. He would be pleased.

Set "100 years ago" in a primitive and remote northern Japanese village, Narayama takes an intimate look at village life in a place where constant near-famine forces the townspeople to banish their elderly citizens to a mountaintop death at the age of 70. Next up for this passage -- which, by the way, almost no one seems to protest -- is Odin (Sumiko Sakamoto), the spry matriarch who is in such good health that she actually pulls out some of her own teeth to convince her family that yes, her time has indeed come. But before she goes, she has business to attend to.

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Bloody Territories Review


OK
It's Japanese gangster high jinks galore -- the kind we've come desensitized to in recent years, as a flood of these movies have hit video shelves following America's recent obsession with all things bloody and all things Japanese.

With a name like Bloody Territories you may expect a Miike-styled splatterfest, with blood squirting as if from a fire hose and yakuza slip-sliding in the stuff around Tokyo. But back in 1969, when Bloody Territories was made, no one went that far, not even Yasuharu Hasebe, a pioneer in the genre.

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