Shuji Terayama – Den-en ni shisu aka Pastoral : To Die in the Country aka Pastoral Hide-and-Seek (1974)


Terayama’s second feature recapitulates some of the main themes of Throw Away Your Books in more directly personal terms: it’s a film about a film-maker’s re-examination (and attempted revision) of his own childhood. His boyhood self is an unprepossessing lad who lives with his monstrous, widowed mother, fantasises about the desirable girl-next-door, and finds the visiting circus a touchstone for his dreams of escape. With passion, wit and a genuinely engaging charm, Terayama poses the burning question: Does murdering your mother constitute a true liberation? The autobiographical stance and the circus motif have evoked countless comparisons with Fellini, but they’re very wide of the mark: the film isn’t burdened with bombast or rhetoric, but it is rich in (authentically Japanese) poetry, and its modernist approach is challenging in the best and most accessible sense.

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