I expected Criterion or Kino to release a DVD edition of Imamura's most celebrated film years ago, so I was surprised to see The Ballad of Narayama finally released by anime and jidaigeki distributor AnimEigo. In the wake of Ken Ogata's death and the film's quarter-century anniversary, Narayama is still harrowing, heartbreaking and hilarious, every bit as potent and moving as it ever was after so many repeated viewings.
Transferred from an excellent print, the visuals of this edition are very bright and clear, which accentuates the vivid colors of the movie's beautiful, rustic photography, but also highlights faint artifacts in some of the darker scenes. Fortunately, the scene selection menu consists of title lists in lieu of thumbnail images. English subtitles for dialogue, as well as captions that translate onscreen kanji and provide definitions for phrases unique to Japanese, can be enabled independently of one another. The translation of these subtitles is more nuanced and accurate than the two others that I've read.
Three long, melodramatic theatrical trailers and a teaser trailer are included. The teaser and one of the long trailers features brief production footage of Imamura and his crew. The program notes consist of a condensed Imamura bio, an overview of Shichiro Fukazawa's books and career, a summary of the Cannes Film Festival's history and awards procedures and further descriptions of customs, phrases and elements in the film that expand on the abbreviated information of the aforementioned captions. The image gallery includes numerous color, then B&W photographs of the cast that were apparently shot between takes, providing different perspectives for many scenes.
All in all, this is a worthy replacement for my long-depleted Home Vision Cinema VHS edition.