A rostrum camera gives the artist’s constant viewpoint. Minimum of biographical information, historical, evidentiary. The work black-and-white in tonal values.
Creation of the art. Rival theories, later developments.
The Sogetsu school.
A child stuffs his pockets with candy when no-one is around, the proprietress of the shop at the abandoned Old Pit mine is dead, first bribed as a witness to the killing of a “deserter” from the mines who is a carefully-sought ringer for the head of Union No. 2 (the Old Pit faction, formed by the corporation to “divide and conquer”), the suspect is the head of Union No. 1 (New Pit), whose counterpart and rival therefore stands to gain, the two kill each other near the dead proprietress murdered as bait to them both, the assassin in white suit and hat and gloves and ultimately shoes rides off on his white motor scooter with leather briefcase in hand “exactly as planned”, ignoring the wrathful or entreating ghosts around him, the child runs down a barren dirt road amid slag piles away from the uninhabited mining town.
A play by Kobo Abe filmed by a director who has both feet most ably and most firmly on the ground he’s surveying. The proprietress is first seen using chopsticks to pluck ants from sweetmeats into a bowl of liquid, a hot job for an idle day.
Sculptures by Sofu
Monochromatic installation footage (Sofu Teshigahara supervising). Color views of the exhibition.
Analysis according to certain principles set forth in Ikebana. A certain limit of expression reached, where the sculptures begin.
Monochromatic studio footage (the artist at work). Penetrating electronic score, quite like the Nō, finally.
in the Dunes
Suna no onna
The leap of thought from working comedy in Teshigahara’s Pitfall goes, “when Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?”
The hallucinations of critics persistently imagine a documentarian. Kobo Abe’s sacred horror of masks and fantasy is scouringly realized here and in Tanin no kao, but the function of realism is different in both cases. The Biblical text of Genesis for Woman in the Dunes must be understood and expressed as knowledge and not criticism, therefore it is not a parable but a record of experience that represents the whole of human progress from the first (in The Face of Another, realism is Beckett’s “grace, not cark”).
Teshigahara is a student of Keaton, His Wife’s Relations, for example. The narrative is kindred to such films as The Ballad of Cable Hogue (dir. Sam Peckinpah) and Groundhog Day (dir. Harold Ramis). “I won’t die like a dog,” says the trapped entomologist as desperate as George Bailey, the line evokes Welles’ version of The Trial, the joke about having a girl in your room.
Kobo Abe’s dream of a dreamless girl of sixteen (“they’re the opposite of truth”).
The title is translated as White Morning, so you have the virginal image corresponding to Malle’s Black Moon.
Ako and her friends, charmers, little beasts, overgrown children, immature adults, flashes of wit, daily jobs, a sojourn by car (“anywhere far”) not unlike the seaside excursion in Schlesinger’s Billy Liar, given per contra the impermeable reality (Borges’ Poe, “este otro”, the joke is in Waiting for Godot, Estragon’s “this one is enough for you?”).
Face of Another
Tanin no kao
The Invisible Man (dir. James Whale) is seen and mentioned. “Some monsters want to look like people, and vice versa.”
Hitler addresses the crowds at Psychiatric Ward No. 2, where vaguely military types go through the motions.
“It doesn’t matter. Men don’t have wings, no matter how high they climb, they always come down again.”
A thoughtful enterprise averse to Thoreau’s dictum about new clothes.
It begins where everything else leaves off but Les Yeux sans visage (dir. Georges Franju), with a disfiguring accident. After the more than significant loss of face, a psychiatrist conducts a dangerous and illicit experiment. His specialty is prosthetics that salve the mind, he fashions a lifelike mask that must be supplemented with a false beard and dark glasses but is otherwise perfect. The features are molded from the face of another paid ¥10,000.
It’s tried out at a “München” beer hall. The main project envisaged by the patient is to seduce his own wife. He is successful because she is not fooled, his despair provokes the rift that is final. One might have pretended, she says, but makeup is for women. The last scene takes place outside a theater. Nemerov has
The vacuous expressions of lovers, mourners,
children and pregnant women, people asleep,
racial and sullen and strange and sullenly at ease
as African faces or roughly featured stones
with looks eroded in the rain of time
for concertgoers while the music plays, Teshigahara pictures the strange nightmare of a Japanese playwright, Kobo Abe’s nearly-faceless audience emerging onto the street not far from Rod Serling’s doctors and nurses in “Eye of the Beholder” (“The Private World of Darkness”, dir. Douglas Heyes for The Twilight Zone). Patient kills psychiatrist, now unknown and free, a man who is nobody yet part of the picture (Teshigahara’s department-store snapshots earlier on give just this image).
The mask is deployed fearlessly in its first application at the psychiatrist’s office with a handheld camera that also mirrors Bruce Geller’s Mission: Impossible. A poor stooge buys a wig and beard to swell his image on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Wally the Beard”, dir. James H. Brown), Keaton’s revolving hats are shown in the rapid alternation of chinwear. The remembrancer of Sekely’s Hollow Triumph (The Scar) is remembranced, and so are the facial exercises in Godard’s À bout de souffle. Borges has an Asterion like this, “my beard itches me under this mask.”
A parallel figuration, the scarred girl and her older brother, goes still further to prepare the ground for Kurosawa’s Rhapsody in August. She does the laundry at Psychiatric Ward No. 2 and fears another war, he comforts her disastrously.
Man Without a Map
The disappearance of a man, an investigation ordered by his wife and paid for by his brother-in-law.
The private detective learns nothing and is beaten up for his pains, following the murder of the brother-in-law, a pimp on the homosexual side and blackmailer.
An ukiyo-e detective story, a film noir in color and widescreen, set according to the English subtitles in 1943, but filmed in the present.
The artist’s works, the artist at work.
Teshigahara had the occasion of Tinguely’s 1963 exhibition at the Minami Gallery in Tokyo. “As was his custom, the artist executed his sculptures on site in Japan, especially for the exhibition, using materials he found there.”
Nevertheless, this short but illuminating and fortunate film bears the date of 1981, when it is said to have been shown on Japanese television.
The story is, J. Paul Getty didn’t want to leave Surrey to view the copy he was building of the Villa dei Papyri for his paintings and sculptures and decorative arts, so he sent a film crew to California. You want to see Gaudí’s work for yourself, Teshigahara is your man, the master artist and logician who films what he sees and knows what there is to know about his subject.
Thorny problems are elucidated, a mass of wrought-iron on an apartment terrace is revealed to be in advance of John Chamberlain, a Baroque ornament is identified as mosaic tile in continuous abstraction which as always for Gaudí as with Sam Francis and Bram van Velde is significant natural form, grading so insensibly at times via late Michelangelo and Noguchi into the thing itself that Teshigahara films that too for admiration.
The other point is Max Ernst, Henry Moore and Guimard. The milieu is Picasso and Miró, round dances in the plaza are deprived of music in one shot (à la Russell’s Mahler) to give the form.
Available lighting is consciously made use of whatever its limitations on a given day, there is no trickery or beautifying, Teshigahara is not a Nippon TV newscrew on a junket. Frescoes of martyrs lay the scene, a village church, early architectural renderings by Gaudí. The works speak for themselves until the Sagrada Familia is supplemented with notes from an acquaintance.
Teshigahara ascertains Gaudí’s true position as one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century, one who combines Wright and Sullivan, Le Corbusier, Mackintosh and Kahn in varying degrees, whose artistic purpose and fertility of invention are unstinting. The magnitude of the works is really seen and understood, the camera on its dolly is reflected in an opening door.
The tale of a tea master in the sixteenth-century wars, one student is beheaded, another has plans for China.
The exactitude of the art is such that any frame will be classical or Teshigahara.
Noguchi and Teshigahara senior are the dedicatees, a modern sculptor and an ikebana master.
“Not in my cup of tea you don’t,” said Rita Kempley of the Washington Post. Her colleague Desson Howe and Vincent Canby of the New York Times were gracious enough nearly to call it a masterpiece, with reference to Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Huston’s The Barbarian and the Geisha, and Zinnemann’s A Man for All Seasons.
The central performance is Fuji-san amidst the turmoil.
The Princess Goh is tamed by a gardener in the service of Rikyu’s successor as tea master.
“The disease of Christianity” is spreading. The seventeenth-century wars claim Oribe as well, he “opposes the Shogun and furthers the Christians”.
Chapels and portable organs establish a link with contemporary Europe, the larger plan of the work (as the second of two parts) finds a Roman fortitude and a Christian knowledge, even John the Baptist gets his say.
The real basis of the tea ceremony and all of Japanese art is the theme from first to last, with a further sense of Oribe’s innovations.
At the same time, the style is not so pure as Rikyu, leaving a slight question to go with the remedy proposed, which is nevertheless veritably the “flower moon” arrangement devised by the master arrestingly at the start of the earlier film.