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.
Teshigahara's feature film debut (with a screenplay which Kobo Abe adapted from his stage play) is somewhat meandering at the beginning until the story kicks up a notch at about the 20 minute mark when the main character is murdered. That's not really a spoiler, because that's when the ghosts start appearing, and what follows is a very intricately plotted tale with a less enigmatic conclusion that his later films.
I'm not sure how I feel about this one. I liked the ghost story, but the political portions of the film were pretty boring. It has some great moments, but it doesn't reach the level of intensity or artistry that the two other films in the box set do. But for a debut, damn, is this some good stuff.
To me it was very reminiscent of Herk Harvey's 'Carnival of Souls'. Similar juxtapositions of existence and non-existence, enigmatic omniscient presence haunting the protagonists, leading them to their demise. The experimentally thematic use of sound.. ..had the same mesmerizing effect in both films, made worlds apart, in the same year, exploring similar themes in a similar fashion. It's quite amazing.
A visually striking film that also fully engaged me emotionally, with moments of humour small and true. I went to bed thinking about it and got up today still thinking about it and I'm pretty sure it influenced whatever made up my dreams in between. Terrific.
http://www.bfi.org.uk/whatson/bfi_southbank/film_programme/august_seasons/shinjuku_diaries_films_from_the_art_theatre_guild_of_ja The film will be screened at BFI Southbank as part of Shinjuku Diaries: Films from the Art Theatre Guild season (1st - 31st Aug) Screening on 2nd introduced by Go Hirasawa