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THE FACE OF ANOTHER (1966) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by goregirl

“Some masks come off some don’t.”

I am so pleased I invested in Criterion’s Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara set. In the set are Pitfall, The Face of Another and Woman in the Dunes. All three films are absolutely brilliant! I reviewed Woman in the Dunes for my Toho feature and since The Face of Another qualified decade-speaking I thought I would sneak it in. The Face of Another is not a horror film, so it will not qualify for the 1966 list. The Face of Another is based on a novel by Kôbô Abe who also wrote the screenplay. In fact all three of the films in the set are based on and have screenplays written by Kôbô Abe. The quote at the top of this review or even the title itself might have given you an inkling that The Face of Another is a story about identity; actually it is two intertwined stories about identity.

Mr. Okuyama a man whose face is badly scarred is seeing a psychiatrist to help him adapt to the life altering incident. The psychiatrist convinces Mr. Okuyama to give his consent to the creation of a mask that would allow him to integrate comfortably back into society. But his new identity begins to change him. A second story that runs parallel with Mr. Okuyama’s involves a young woman who suffers from a disfiguring scar on one side of her face. We are shown snippets of her daily existence and the hardships she is forced to endure.

The Face of Another is thought-provoking commentary on our identities; the way society treats us based on our appearances and the way we react based on that treatment. The young scarred woman of the story is actually a character in a film watched by our Mr. Okuyama. The young woman was scarred at Hiroshima; the nuclear radiation theme understandably worked its way into the plots of many Japanese films in the 1960s. The scarred young woman who remains nameless is a very empathetic character with a sad story that rather broke my heart. Mr. Okuyama is not a particularly sympathetic character. He is pretty bitter, angry and jealous. He isn’t a bad person he just makes himself difficult to be around. He is caustic towards his wife who he feels is intentionally avoiding him since the accident. He also suspects her of having an affair. She feels that it is he who has changed and alienated her. His occasional visits to his place of employment are awkward and uncomfortable. Although Mr. Okuyama’s The Invisible Man like bandages may make people uneasy; his salty observations don’t exactly make those around him feel any less anxious. Mr. Okuyama agrees to the making of the mask and it is decided that the face of another man will be used. Mr. Okuyama also agrees to be a guinea pig of sorts. The psychiatrist wants to document how the mask effects Mr. Okuyama. Unfortunately, Mr. Okuyama’s first instinct is to use his handsome new face to deceive and seduce his wife. All of the characters in The Face of Another are fascinating and the performances across the board are perfect.

The visuals in The Face of Another are incredible, unique and downright trippy! The psychiatrist’s office had the most ingenious set pieces I have ever laid eyes on! The medical diagrams on the glass walls, the rows of glass shelves full of synthetic body parts, giant body part sculptures that double as furniture. It is quite the mind blow man! Modern, cold and stark but also beautiful and alluring. I was particularly impressed with the finale where Mr. Okuyama and the psychiatrist meet and streams of faceless people walk between them. The Face of Another is full of visual symbolic references. A couple did mystify me slightly. What was the significance of the German-themed bar with the kitschy ceramic steins? Is it just an odd ball reference to World War II? What about the flying bed? Nonetheless you could not possibly have any complaints with the astounding visuals in The Face of Another.

Criterion’s Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara set is simply the cat’s ass! It is packed to the tits with bonuses (which I have not yet gotten around to) and more importantly all three films are freaking amazing. It was well worth the hearty investment! If you are interested in the Japanese new wave cinema of the sixties this trio is highly and enthusiastically recommended. The Face of Another is a slower-paced, symbolic, psychological, strange and highly visual journey with a gorgeous, amazing score and absolutely superb performances. The Face of Another gets my highest of recommendations…a perfect rating.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Mikijiro Hira, Kyôko Kishida, Miki Irie, Eiji Okada, Minoru Chiaki, Hideo Kanze, Kunie Tanaka, Etsuko Ichihara, Eiko Muramatsu, Yoshie Minami, Hisashi Igawa, Kakuya Saeki

WOMAN IN THE DUNES (1964) – The Dungeon Photo Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , on March 20, 2012 by goregirl

I feel like I should have been aware of Woman in the Dunes. It has received significant acclaim, winning the special jury prize at Cannes. It was also nominated for two academy awards for best foreign language film and best director. Woman in the Dunes is based on the book of the same name by Kôbô Abe. According to the special features on the Criterion DVD the film is quite faithful to its source material. The special features also discuss symbolism in the film. The film is referred to as “avant-garde”. A two and a half hour long avant-garde film full of symbolism. Films that fit this mould can be self-indulgent, long-winded tripe but they can also be an enthralling and hypnotic experience. Woman in the Dunes is one such enthralling experience. While Woman in the Dunes may be full of symbolism, its story is really quite straight-forward. Visually the film is very impressive. Sand invades every nook and cranny of the set pieces. Everything in the woman’s home is designed for life among the sand dunes. Impromptu lids for cooking utensils and various creative coverings are used to protect her possessions and her person from the troublesome sand. The sand is a curse but the woman seems to gleam some comfort from it. Director Hiroshi Techigahara includes intimate close-ups of sand on bare flesh and resting on strands of hair. The countless interesting and unique shots are what made Woman in the Dunes a candidate for a photo review. Like a previous photo review for Blind Beast the vast majority of Woman in the Dunes takes place in a single location. The performances from the two central actors Eiji Okada and Kyôko Kishida are strong. Their on-screen chemistry together is fluid and natural. Woman in the Dunes is not a love story, but the relationship between the two main characters is nonetheless an important element. Woman in the Dunes is a mesmerizing drama with mystery and thriller elements. Despite its deliberate pace and lengthy runtime Woman in the Dunes kept me thoroughly invested. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic! I will be seeking this one out to add to my collection! I should probably apologize for the length of this thing! These photo reviews are getting out of control! I really dug Woman in the Dunes and can’t recommend it enough. Warning!! This photo review does include some minor spoilers.

We begin appropriately, with sand. We are shown a microscopic view of sand, which is than zoomed out until we see a mass of sand.

This is Jumpei Niki school teacher and amateur entomologist. We don’t actually learn this character’s name until the end of the film. I will be referring to him as ‘the teacher’ from now on.

The teacher is exploring the area for a particular variety of insect that lives in the sand.

The teacher takes a rest and when he awakes a villager informs him he missed the last bus into the city. He also offers to find him accommodation.

They lead the teacher to a large hole where a roof is visible below. They inform him that this is where he will spend the night. One of the locals yokels for the woman of the house referring to her as “hag”.

The teacher climbs down a rope ladder to the ground where a ramshackle house stands.

Hey! She’s not a hag at all!

The woman fixes the teacher some food and tea and sets up a place for him to sleep.

The woman puts a scarf and hat on, grabs a shovel and hurries out of the room.

The woman works each night, all night long shovelling sand into pails that are hauled up and later sold. It is also necessary for her survival. All of the sand removed from the previous night’s work is replaced the next day with more. She digs through the night while the teacher sleeps.

The teacher awakes the next morning to the sight of the woman’s naked body covered in a fine dusting of sand. We see him take a drink through wood slats as if he is in prison. Foreshadowing what is to come? He quietly gathers his stuff and leaves.

The teacher scans the area and discovers the rope ladder has disappeared. What the deuce?! Clearly someone or someone(s) is aiming to keep him here.

Angry and determined, the teacher picks up a shovel and attempts to make footholds in the sand wall. It gets him no where and causes a small avalanche.

Walls of sand are just absolute rubbish for climbing!

The teacher realizes he will not be getting out of the hole on his own. He decides to tie up the woman and threaten the men.

The teacher informs the villagers that he has the woman tied up. He climbs onto the lowered net and insists that they pull him up. He really didn’t think this plan out.

Shockingly the teacher’s plan does not work. But at least they throw down some provisions in the form of cigarettes and liquor.

The teacher realizes there is little point in keeping the woman tied up and frees her. He makes her promise not to dig any more sand until he says she can. They will soon find out that the punishment for not digging sand is a real buzz kill.

An avalanche rocks the house and the teacher and the woman end up on the floor.

Afterwards the teacher bathes the woman.

The two passionately bang uglies. I joke, this is actually one seriously sexy scene!

After being deprived of water for an extended period of time the teacher and the woman drink greedily.

The teacher learns an important lesson; you don’t screw with the villagers. And he joins the woman on her daily digging ritual.

The teacher begins to become accustom to life in the sand but escape is still on his mind. He creates a rope while the woman works away at the digging. When she is done her work, the teacher insists she join him for a drink and than bathes him so she will sleep extra soundly.

The teacher’s plan is a success and he manages to get out of the sand hole.

The sun is setting and the teacher does not know the terrain. He manages to get himself in a spot. You will have to watch the film to find out what happens.

The villagers not only locate the teacher but must save him from his precarious position. He is promptly returned to his hole.

The teacher shouts to a villager that he has learned his lesson. He asks if they would let him go to the sea once a day. I won’t try to escape! How can she not be saddened by his desperation to leave?

The villagers discuss and decide they might allow him this request on one condition. The villagers look on wearing masks and various other adornments. Fevered drums beat, but for what? Again, I’ll leave you to watch the film yourself.

The teacher has set bird traps; in which he hoped to catch a bird that he could tie a note to. When he checks his trap he instead discovers water. Clean, drinkable water!

Could the teacher be content here in this home amongst the sand?

Unfortunately, the woman is not well. The villagers must take her away to treat her.

He watches sadly as they take her away.

The End.


Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Starring: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô, Kôji Mitsui, Sen Yano, Ginzô Sekiguchi