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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hiroshi Teshigahara's films and Ikebana

It's been a busy week.

My friend Dawn Yang (she's also something of an unofficial mascot of this blog. Look at the 'most popular posts' on your right, people generally stumble onto this website because they were looking for her or the exposing of her alleged boyfriend) had just came to Tokyo for a visit, so I was showing her around. If you were following on Twitter, you'll spot these tweets.

Aside from that, I also started doing some research on ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement). It was for a script that I was working on.

Not entirely sure where to start, I tweeted for help. And help did arrive when Brian Darr asked me to check out the short documentary, Ikebana, by Hiroshi Teshigahara.

After all, Teshigahara came from a line of ikebana masters. His father Sofu Teshigahara was the founder of Sōgetsu School of Ikebana, and the documentary short covered some of Sofu's Ikebana classes, and also an amazing art installation that Sofu put together.

After Sofu died in 1979, Kasumi Teshigahara (Hiroshi's younger sister) took over as the second Iemoto (headmaster) of the school. But she passed away a year later, Hiroshi Teshigahara himself became the third Iemoto of the school in 1980 until his death in 2001. The school is currently headed by Akane Teshigahara, Hiroshi's daughter. Last year (2011), the school had a series of activities to celebrate her tenth anniversary as Iemoto.

Akane had actually done some flower arrangement demonstrations on the stage. This is a video of her ikebana demonstration in Sydney back on May 2010.

It's all really interesting. You can read about the Sogetsu school and the history of the Teshigahara family here.

One thing leads to another. As usual.

I started watching other films by Hiroshi Teshigahara. I've seen "Woman In The Dunes" a while ago, so this time, I decided to catch "Pitfall" and "Face of Another". "Pitfall" was his debut feature, "Woman In The Dunes", his second, was an international sensation, winning a Special Jury Prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival, and also getting nominated for Best Foreign Film and Best Director (!!) in the Oscars. The latter was a rare feat, especially considering how avant-garde his film was!

Some time ago, Justin (who used to contribute for this blog) told me that if I were to adapt one of his stories into a film, it better be as sensual as this scene in Woman In The Dunes.

(Pitfall, Woman In The Dunes and Face Of Another are all collaborations between Teshigahara and the novelist Kobo Abe, and they are all scored by the composer Toru Takemitsu).

Very sensual indeed.

I don't know how to describe PITFALL. It's about a wandering miner who got murdered by an assassin in a white suit, and became a ghost wandering around the town, witnessing the plight of other impoverished, helpless workers of postwar Japan. Here's the PITFALL trailer. It's like an Alain Resnais film (Hiroshi Mon Amour comes to mind), or a magical realist novel, some called it a documentary fantasy. It's really pretty damned good.

But the one that really captured my attention was FACE OF ANOTHER, his follow-up to WOMAN IN THE DUNES, which was, apparently, a critical (and commercial, I'm sure) failure during its time. But obviously, it was another one of those films that was way ahead of its time. Unlike PITFALL and WOMAN IN THE DUNES, this is set in an urban landscape, and feels more contemporary.

A guy got horribly disfigured, he becomes increasingly bitter and self-centered when his bandaged look garnered some unwanted attention from other people, and even his wife acted uncomfortable around him. But then, his psychiatrist makes him a mask, a medical experiment which uses the face of another, so that it can cover his scars seamlessly and give him the identity of another person. With a new face, he sets out to seduce his own wife! The scenes of his seduction is so mindblowing, erotically-charged, that I had to pause, and rewind, just to make sure I saw what I taught I saw. The filmmaking was so daring, so masterful in atmosphere creation! My mind began to race through a number of possibilities for my own script. That's the joy of watching the works of masters, regardless of time, you always end up feeling inspired. Well, for me anyway.

Here's a newer trailer of FACE OF ANOTHER (for the MASTERS OF CINEMA series). Look at it, LOOK AT IT!!

When it comes to discussing about the Japanese filmmaking masters, Teshigahara is often overlooked, perhaps for his avant-garde style, or perhaps he's not as prolific as the others. But I think he definitely up there on the Pantheon, with the likes of Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi, Imamura etc.

So, there you go, if you have the chance, please check out Hiroshi Teshigahara's films.

Since then, I have returned to my research on ikebana.

And have put together a rough outline of sorts for the story. Let's hope I'll be able to make that in within these few months. After I'm done with this other directing job that I've picked up. But that's a story for another blog entry.