Friday, September 16, 2011

#392: Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara

(Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1962-1966)

This boxset collects the first three of four collaborations between Hiroshi Teshigahara and Kôbô Abe. The excluded film probably explains why it wasn't branded as the true collaborations that they are and is instead simply "three films," and it's not entirely clear why Criterion chose to ignore the fourth collaboration, 1968's The Man Without a Map, especially since that film remains unavailable in the US. The easy explanation would be that Teshigahara's fourth film finally gave in to modern trends and moved to Cinemascope and color, making the film aesthetically incongruent with the earlier films. Furthermore - though I have yet to see the film - its reputation is not as impressive as those of the three films collected here (then again, a film like Love on the Run managed to be included in the Antoine Doinel boxset, despite being greatly inferior to the earlier films in the series - though obviously that movie was more closely linked and essential to its series). Still, it would have been nice to see all four films collected here, particularly since the three films included are so accomplished and Teshigahara's oeuvre is so small.

Of the three movies, I don't think there's any doubt that the most impressive film is Woman in the Dunes. The film has certainly received more attention from Western critics than any of the director's other films, but don't hold that against it - it's as impressive thematically as it is visually, and the intense plotting complements the film's worldview impeccably. Still, Pitfall is just as entertaining - and could fill just as many philosophy theses. On the other hand, while Face of Another was extremely well made and equally interesting from a philosophical perspective, the protagonist's cold cynical demeanor - and the film's subservience to this sentiment - makes it a difficult viewing that isn't necessarily worthwhile.

Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara is another great boxset from Criterion. I'm not sure how many times I'd want to pull this out, but as a reference set it is a(n almost) complete look at a unique voice in Japanese cinema. Here are the individual reviews:

#393: Pitfall
#394: Woman in the Dunes
#395: The Face of Another

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