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Foreign Horror > Pitfall (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1962)

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message 1: by Phillip (last edited Jan 29, 2009 08:46AM) (new)

Phillip Pitfall (Teshigahara, 1962)

an illusion of SPOILERS...

This impossible to categorize effort is the debut film by the talented Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara. Pitfall accesses several genres: ghost story, murder mystery, political thriller and documentary (to name a few) to weave together a narrative about a man in search of justice.

At the start of the film a man and his son escape working in a mine only to be lured into a trap in a case of mistaken identity. The trap sets the father up and he is murdered by a mysterious man in a white suit. Throughout the remainder of the film, his ghost goes in a futile search for his killer.

This setup drives Pitfall into a jigsaw maze of episodes. It would be difficult to outline all the divergent plot lines, and unfair to give away how the film holds together, for there is true mystery in this movie that isn't easily resolved in the end. This is quite different than many suspense films that exist today, where directors give too much information away to their audiences, leaving the hope of creating a deep sense of mystery firmly out of reach. This isn't one of those "oh, he was dead all along" films - the use of the ghost pursuing his assasin tells you directly that the hero is dead - but that only opens the pandora's box of problems that follow.

Pitfall is the first full feature colloboration between Teshigahara, novelist Kobo Abe and composer Toru Takemitsu; three radical avant garde artists to emerge at time of revolution in post-war Japan. The film uses the plight of miners (symbolic of the struggle between workers and an oppressive government) as the main engine that drives the movie. The director uses actual footage of horrific mining accidents at the opening of the film, which elevates the haunted atmosphere of the desolate Kyushu landscapes with the ghosts that populate the latter part of the movie.

The visual style delivers a strange blend of raw documentary footage, radical black and white contrasts, super-imposed images, breathtaking tracking shots, and blurry hand-held action. The camera movement is outstanding for a first time director - a raw visual energy and rhythm drives the film along with Takemitsu's minimal score. Teshigahara, Abe and Takemitsu went on to collaborate on the highly celebrated Woman in the Dunes, and the early classic of "identity horror", The Face of Another. While those later films firmly establish a radical departure in cinematic style, Pitfall can be see as an early model of Teshigahara's unique visual poetry.

Pitfall is an ambitious film that takes the traditional Japanese ghost story and stands it on its head, offering a puzzling meditation on identity, alienation, and our eternal hunger for truth.

In Japanese with English subtitltes - black and white - 97 minutes

This film is available along with Woman In The Dunes and The Face of Another in the recent Criterion Collection 4-DVD box set (Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara), along with an excellent booklet and additional DVD of supplements.

message 2: by Ubik (last edited Jan 27, 2009 01:00PM) (new)

Ubik | 46 comments This sounds really cool. Im going to add it to my Netflix. Thanks!

EDIT: It was already on my queue, but at #384 so I just bumped it up.

message 3: by Phillip (last edited Jan 29, 2009 08:47AM) (new)

Phillip you have 384 films in your queue? wow, i'm such a lightweight...i try to keep mine at 50 (but i think it's crept higher than that lately) otherwise, it gets overwhelming.

message 4: by Ubik (new)

Ubik | 46 comments Actually its right under 500 and I have a Netflix Overflow queue saved in my imdb 'My Movies'. When I get some slots open, I enter one from my imdb saved list

message 5: by Phillip (last edited Jan 29, 2009 05:45PM) (new)

Phillip you're my hero!
so, how many films do you watch each week?

i watch one every night - without fail (unless i'm travelling and can't control my intake). even if i have a gig and don't get home until midnight, i can't really fall asleep until i've relaxed and watched a movie. if things are slow, i might watch two in one night, or two in a day.

message 6: by Ubik (new)

Ubik | 46 comments Ive slowed down a little bit lately. Its random though. Sometimes I will watch 4 in one night and none the rest of the week. I really dont have a pattern or anything. Im probably going to watch 3 tonight

message 7: by Phillip (new)

Phillip have fun!

message 8: by WitchyFingers (new)

WitchyFingers I have 358 movies in my queue, and it is a little overwhelming. I watched 76 movies last year, and it is my goal to watch 100 this year, but I am not doing so well on that goal so far- I think I only saw 3 in January. Of course, I was unemployed or only part-time employed for all of 2008, and I am full-time+ employed now (about 56 hours/week), so I don't have as much time to watch movies and read. I barely have time to eat, sleep, and work.

Anyways, I am impressed by your movie-watching habits, both of you.

And, I also already had this in my queue, but will move it up.

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