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Grass Labyrinth

1979 / 40m - Japan
Fantasy, Romance
Grass Labyrinth poster

Shûji Terayama gets full-on weird. I'm not really surprised that the short format suits Terayama's style. I'm slowly going through the man's work and while the films I've seen all contain moments of greatness, they're never quite consistent enough for a high rating. The Grass Labyrinth seems less worried at providing some kind of coherent narrative, and that makes a big difference.

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There's an underlying plot about an adolescent chasing the lyrics of a lullaby his mother used to sing to him, but it's merely an excuse for some surreal scenes that appear to symbolize the boy's transition from boy into man. My advice is to let the dream-like wonder swoop over you and to not worry too much about what it all means (unless you really love to dissect films).

The film is beautifully stylized, with some memorable compositions, strong use of color and a fitting, surprisingly modern soundtrack. The actors surrendered to their performances, the runtime is perfect and Terayama manages to keep it interesting throughout. Some parts feel just a little too dated for an even higher rating, but this is by far the best film I've seen from Terayama. Well recommended.

Pastoral: To Die in the Country

Den-En ni Shisu
1974 / 104m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy
Pastoral: To Die in the Country poster

My first Terayama and I have a feeling I'm going to like this guy. A unique take on cinema that has served as a clear inspiration for some of my own favorites. It's pretty weird, not very linear and at times quite absurd, but it's also very atmospheric and intruiging. A bit rough around the edges, but definitely worth a try if you're in the mood for something different.

The Boxer

1977 / 94m - Japan
Drama, Sport
The Boxer poster

A more tempered Terayama that feels like a precursor to Kitano's Kids Return and Tsukamoto's Tokyo Fist. The scenes in the bar are amusing and the matches are energetic, the drama on the other hand is a little less intriguing. All in all not a bad film, but just a little too plain to really stand out from its peers.