That's how life is for 65-year-old widower Honma (Ken Ogata), a semi-retired sake maker who lives in a humble house with his younger son Yasuo (Yasufumi Hirashi). Father and son pretty much despise each other and make great sport of hurling insults back and forth, but since Dad needs help with the daily chores of life and the aimless Yasuo needs a place to stay, the two are stuck with each other.
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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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Like its companion release Zero Focus, what registers first about 1978's The Demon is its Hitchcockian air. Based on a story by Seicho Matsumoto, the best-selling Japanese mystery writer of his day, The Demon tracks the domestic horrors that befall three young children whose mother abandons them to their father's care. I use "abandon" because the father is not ideally positioned to care for them: he's married, and the mother of these children is not the wife. What's more, his wife has no inkling of the children's existence until the very day they're dumped at the small printing shop the couple runs. You might say that she does not react gracefully. Still, the demon of the title is not this resentful and cruel woman, nor a supernatural force of any kind - nothing happens in The Demon that science can't explain. Rather, this demon is the father himself. The tragedy and horror of the film reside not only in the acts this man commits, but in the way director Nomura ensures that the audience understands - maybe even, to a small extent, sympathizes with - the psychic terror this demon experiences at the thought of what he's done.
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Needless to say, I would rather watch American Beauty, a decent film that deals with flowers and is actually fun to watch, than sit through another showing of Autumn Blossoms, a film that is about flowers and is about as much fun as a root canal. Autumn Blossoms is one of the foreign films that gives foregin films a bad name. It is slow, drawn out, ultra-bohemian, and incredibly highbrow. Instead of accepting the simple fact that a cow on a rural road moves faster than this movie, writer-director Shunsaku Irehata opts for the unoriginal. He inserts subplot after subplot of every moralistic story that he can, from the desperation that leads a middle class 19-year-old to sell herself to the incredible frustration that a lighter-skinned Nipponese child felt in the post W.W.II. years.
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