Thursday, 11 January 2007

Scene from Der Prozess (1975)
Donald Richie, renowned Nipponophile and book reviewer, has this week reviewed, for a change, a four-volume box set of DVDs in The Japan Times. Odd, since the link to the review sits under the rubric 'Books'. But, since Richie remains the doyen of book reviewers, it must go there, and not under 'Performing Arts' or 'Art'. (Very Japanese — the heirarchy is more important than the content.)

It is both performing art and, clearly, art. I'd not heard before of Shuji Terayama, who died in 1983. So this is an introduction for me to his art (or film).

For those who might wish to sample them, the Ubuweb site contains a large selection of his films.

Terayama's art is compelling and disturbing, but wholly satisfying. The interconnected tableaux lack dialogue, making them readily comprehensible to people from any culture.

Their low production cost is immediately obvious. But they are not less charming for that. In fact no high-end special effects intrude on our contemplation of these interesting and beautiful films.

Each film possesses a unique flavour, attesting to the depth of Terayama's vision. He creates drama with simple images and a basic soundtrack.

I would say that Terayama's art is very Japanese, representing a return to first principles, where we discover the exact weight and meaning of each image.

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