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It’s not exactly “good,” per se, but it does what it sets out to do in terms of putting us on edge, which makes it…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Great Movies and mortality

From: Dave Shaefer, Baltimore, MD

I have been viewing as many of the movies in your book "Roger Ebert: the Great Movies" as I can get my hands on. (Netflix has a great selection.) Today I saw "Ikiru", one of Kurosawa's works and I found it to be one of the best movies I have ever seen. Perhaps the fact that I have been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor (brain stem) created a resonance with the story's main character, Watanabe. I could feel his despair for a wasted life in the Japanese bureaucracy, pushing papers but without a lasting accomplishment. It was very emotional for me having the feeling that I may be at the end of my days, and interesting that a film created more than 50 years ago could produce such a reaction in me. Fortunately for me, I have been a teacher in a school for students with chronic behavioral problems during the last 14 years of my working days (I am 59), and I have the comfort of knowing I have had a positive influence on many of those young people. So I do not despair of my life's work, but know I have done some things that will live beyond my life. Watanabe's desire for a final lasting testament to his 'wasted' life was reminiscent of Nicholson's character in "About Schmidt." It must be a common human thread that makes us take stock in our lives as we face our mortality.

Two other Japanese films about reconciliation with death: Ozu's "Tokyo Story" and Kore-Ada's "After Life." (RE)

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