When a miner leaves his employers and treks out with his young son to become a migrant worker, he finds himself moving from one eerie landscape to another, intermittently followed (and photographed) by an enigmatic man in a clean white suit, and eventually coming face to face with his inescapable destiny. Hiroshi Teshigahara’s debut feature and first collaboration with novelist Kobo Abe, Pitfall is many things: a mysterious, unsettling ghost story, a portrait of human alienation, and a compellingly surreal critique of soulless industry, shot in elegant black-and-white. —The Criterion Collection
Hiroshi Teshigahara (勅使河原 宏, Teshigahara Hiroshi?, January 28, 1927 – April 14, 2001) was an avant-garde Japanese filmmaker.
He was born in Tokyo, son of Sofu Teshigahara, founder and grand master of the the Sogetsu School of ikebana. He graduated in 1950 from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and directed his first film, Pitfall (1962), in collaboration with author Kōbō Abe and musician Tōru Takemitsu. The film won the NHK New Director’s award, and throughout the 1960s, he continued to collaborate on films with Abe and Takemitsu while simultaneously pursuing his interest in ikebana and sculpture on a professional level.
In 1965, the Teshigahara/Abe film Woman in the Dunes (1964) was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1972, he worked with Japanese researcher and translator John Nathan to make the movie Summer Soldiers, a film set during the Vietnam War about American deserters living on the fringe… read more
Throughout history numerous artists have tried through their work and musings to uncover the meaning of life. This film on the other hand portrays characters in a desperate search for any sort of meaning they can attribute to their deaths. It's a gruesome and absurd process but as in life, there is no answer.
Sick people driven mad by work. Wow, what a great opening sequence. A strange mix: some scenes are played and filmed completely natural, while others are much more elevated and cinematic. The really brilliant parts are the hypnotic interjections between the two. Loved the score. "Everyone knows they bait the line...A slow tailspin to the pits of hell, where you crash and burn." This one has all my favorite elements.
Great. Really reminded me of Beckett and Kafka in its exploration of human powerlessness and bureaucracy, especially with the political context in mind. Visually it's meticulously composed, and in a similar way as Antonioni (a contemporary), Teshigahara juxtaposes natural landscapes with man-made structures really well. Also, some great use of superimposition and swish pans to mix the surreal with the social realism.
Also: Teshigahara’s Pitfall in Chicago, news and great reads.