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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Suna No Onna (aka Woman In The Dunes) (1964)

A school teacher (Eiji Okada, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR) spends his time off exploring the sand dunes near the sea. When he misses the last bus, the local villagers find lodgings for him with a young widow (Kyoko Kishida) who lives at the bottom of a sand dune. But the morning after, he finds himself a prisoner trapped at the bottom with the woman and no way out. Based on the book by Kobo Abe (who adapts his novel for the screen) and directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara (who received an Oscar nomination for his work here), this is the kind of bold and provocative avant garde film making that stimulated art house audiences in the 1960s.  20 minutes were cut from the U.S. release at the time which have since been restored. The film does seem overly long but an argument can be made that the film's excess length only helps the audience feel the tedium of the protagonists monotonous day to day existence. As an allegory, some of the symbolism may be a bit too obvious. Like Okada's hobby of collecting insects and putting them in jars for observation, only to find himself in a similar position. The atonal score by Toru Takemitsu contributes immeasurably to the unsettling situation.

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