This is the more beautiful of two adaptations of the same story. Director Keisuke Kinoshita used traditional Japanese Kabuki theater as visual inspiration for a stunning story of generational tension in a small village (the other adaptation of this story is the far more realistic and brutal The Ballad of Narayama ).
The plot involves three generations of a household: the aged Orin who is the matriarch of the household, her son Tatsuhei, and his son--a completely self-absorbed teenager--Kesakichi. The village tradition dictates that elderly parents are carried into the mountains and left there to die, so that the younger generations have a better chance to survive.
However this family problematizes tradition because Orin is in great health, as evidenced by her full set of teeth. Orin is eager to carry out the tradition, counting down the days until her trip to Narayama. But her son, Tatsuhei, is deeply attached to his mother and does not want her to die. Her Grandson, Kesakichi, is wretched and taunts Orin, regularly demanding that she make the trip to her grave. Kesakichi's comically bovine wife, Matsu, is excited for Orin's death because there will be more food for them once Granny's out of the way.
The story and color is beautiful and tragic. The highly stylized sets contribute to the sense of watching a stage production. Even with these layers to remove the viewer from the tragic events unfolding, this viewer was completely caught in the story.
As usual, the Criterion Collection edition comes with nice extras: ---New 4K digital master from the 2011 restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition ---Trailer and teaser ---New English subtitle translation ---PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp