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The Ballad of Narayama Blu-ray

United States
Narayama Bushiko / 楢山節考 / The Criterion Collection Criterion | 1958 | 98 min | Not rated | Feb 05, 2013

The Ballad of Narayama (Blu-ray)
Large:


Video
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (35.00 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Audio
Japanese: LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles
English

Discs
50GB Blu-ray Disc
Single disc (1 BD)

Playback
Region A (locked)

Price
List price: $29.95, Price history
Amazon: $19.16 (Save 36%)
Best Buy: $18.99 (Save 37%)  
New from: $15.24 (Save 49%)
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Movie rating
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
7.6
14
ratings.


Blu-ray rating
Video 4.5 of 54.5
Audio 5.0 of 55.0
Extras 1.5 of 51.5
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Movie appeal

 
Drama100%

50%
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445
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5
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The Ballad of Narayama

 (1958)

The Ballad of Narayama Blu-ray delivers stunning video and reference-quality audio in this exceptional Blu-ray release

This haunting, kabuki-inflected version of a Japanese folk legend is set in a remote mountain village where food is scarce and tradition dictates that citizens who have reached their seventieth year must be carried to the summit of Mount Narayama and left there to die.

For more about The Ballad of Narayama and the The Ballad of Narayama Blu-ray release, see the The Ballad of Narayama Blu-ray Review published by on where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.

Starring: Kinuyo Tanaka, Teiji Takahashi, Yûko Mochizuki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Eijirô Tôno, Ken Mitsuda
Director: Keisuke Kinoshita

» See full cast & crew


The Ballad of Narayama Blu-ray, Video Quality

  4.5 of 5

Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Keisuke Kinoshita's The Ballad of Narayama arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.

Update 2: I received a second note from Criterion, which I have included below:

"There's not a problem with the encode of the Criterion DVD or Blu-ray release of THE BATTLE OF NARAYAMA. What is perceived to be an encoding error is actually inherent to the surviving film elements and the restored materials. It is also present in the 2007 Tartan UK release. The Criterion version is consistent with the Shochiku restoration that premiered at Cannes last year, which was the basis for the Criterion release."

Update: I received a market version of The Ballad of Narayama. Unfortunately, the error also appears on it.

Note: There appears to be some sort of an encoding error on the disc I was sent to review. Starting at around 00.36.00, for approximately 28 seconds it looks like the data on the disc becomes extremely difficult to read and the film essentially begins stuttering. However, the sound does not appear to be affected. After the aforementioned 28 seconds, everything goes back to normal. I tested the disc on four different players and observed the same issue. Since I do not yet have a market version of this release, I am going to assume that it is only my screener that is affected. I have contacted Criterion's team to inform them about the defect and will update the review once I get a response.

The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:

"This new digital master was produced from the 2011 restoration done by Shochiku studios and Imagica. For the restoration, a scan was created in 4K resolution on an Imagica IMAGER scanner from a 35 mm interpositive wetgate printed from the original camera negative; the original negative could not be scanned directly due to excessive damage. The restoration work was then performed in 2K resolution.

Image restoration supervisor: Ryuichiro Kiyatake.
Sound restoration supervisors: Ryuji Matsumoto, Kazunori Shimizu.
Colorist: Eiji Ishibashi/Imagica Tokyo."

Recently restored in 4K by Shochiku Co., Ltd., with technical support by Imagica Corp. and Imagica West Corp., with the final digital restoration supervised by assistant cameraman Ryuichiro Kiyatake and sound designer Ryuji Matsumoto, The Ballad of Narayama looks very impressive. The few close-ups in the film boast outstanding depth and terrific delineation (see screencapture #14), while the darker sequences convey excellent clarity, allowing one to see even extremely small objects despite the fact that bright light is often restricted (see screencapture #9). Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the new restoration, however, is the unusually wide range of rich colors. The Ballad of Narayama was the first film to be shot on Fuji color negative in Japan and it is extremely easy to see now that it was meant to impress - the blues, greens, browns, grays, and especially the reds are exceptionally well saturated, at times looking almost unnaturally rich and vibrant. There are no traces of excessive degraining. Edge-enhancement is also not an issue of concern. During two different nighttime sequences, however, I noticed some light compression artifacts. (See the sequence where Orin shows Tama where her secret fishing spot is - screencapture #16). Finally, there are no serious stability issues. All in all, the new restoration of The Ballad of Narayama is easily the very best I have seen to date for a classic Japanese film. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).


The Ballad of Narayama Blu-ray, Audio Quality

  5.0 of 5

There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.

The narration and the prominent singing are consistently well rounded and notably crisp. The dance celebrations also impress with excellent fluidity. It is obvious that the dialog has also been stabilized and cleaned up as best as possible because there isn't even a whiff of background hiss. Also, there are no pops or distortions to report in this review.



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The Ballad of Narayama Blu-ray, News and Updates



Criterion Announces February Titles - November 15, 2012

The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in February. On February 5, the studio will release The Ballad of Narayama (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1958). A week later, it will release The Kid With a Bike (Dardenne Brothers, 2011). On February ...




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