Hiroshi Teshigahara

I’ve been to see two films by this old Japanese director at the NFT this week. He’s an interesting figure – I only knew Woman Of The Dunes before, but he was also a painter, sculptor, garden designer and director of operas and noh plays, and only made eight feature films. The two I saw were both very impressive. Pitfall and Face Of Another have a fair amount in common – both based on Kobo Abe stories, both with the same cinematographer (who deserves a share of the credit for the magnificent look of these films) and other crew, and I spotted a couple of actors appearing in both too.

Pitfall is an extraordinary anti-realist tale of apparently random murders – we can pick up a good hint of the design behind them, but the poor ghosts or the lost child left by them never do, they just despair at the incomprehensible nature of their deaths. The wandering ghosts fit with the anti-realist style, with naturalistic sound vanishing at times, replaced with an aggressive soundtrack of occasional loud noises or piano dischords. I suspect a political allegory, in that the plot seems to be about management hiring a killer to undermine (sorry) mining unions.

Face Of Another is about a man whose face is ruined in some kind of accident, but a psychiatrist gives him a convincing mask to wear, and he uses this to create a double life, and the mask gradually changes him and seems to take over, not in a supernatural horror way, but more as a psychological fable. Again, we get anti-naturalistic touches, especially with ostentatiously odd and changing lighting, and some more sound tricks.

I’m going to see another next week, Rikyu, which probably won’t appeal unless you have a deep interest in Japanese arts, as it sounds like a quiet film about one of the key figures in Japanese aesthetic history.