Friday, October 04, 2019

Pitfall (1962 film)

Based on a novel by Kobo Abe, Otoshiana (Pitfall) is the story of a miner who leaves his employer and treks out with his young son to become a migrant worker where they are followed by a mysterious man in a white suit. Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and written by Abe, the film is an experimental feature that explore elements of surrealism and drama as it play into a simple premise that becomes troubling. Starring Hisashi Igawa, Kazuo Miyahara, and Kanichi Omiya. Otoshiana is an evocative yet haunting film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

The film follows a miner who leaves his job to find a new job as a migrant worker as he brings along his young son where they’re tailed by a mysterious man in a white suit while finding themselves in a desolate small village. It’s a film with a simple premise as it plays more into some of the social politics of post-war Japan as it relates to rural areas where not much progress is happening where a miner is with his young son as they trek through the area to find work as a migrant worker hoping for something better than mining. Kobo Abe’s screenplay does have a traditional structure as much of its premise takes place in the first act where a miner (Hisashi Igawa) has deserted his place in one mine to go to another place to find work yet he is followed by this mysterious man (Kunie Tanaka).

Upon meeting a shopkeeper (Sumie Sasaki), the miner encounters the mysterious man where it would become deadly as it would lead to an unusual second act where the miner becomes a ghost seeing what this town had become and later learn of a political struggle involving two mining factions as one of them looks exactly like the miner. Even as the second act has a reporter (Kei Sato) trying to figure out why the miner was murdered believing it has something to do with this conflict between two union leaders.

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s direction has elements of style in its approach to surrealism but it is also low-key in its simplicity. Shot on location in Kyushu, Teshigahara does use stock footage of mining in Japan as well as this growing political and social struggle that was emerging in the 1960s that is removed from the post-war boom in Japan’s major cities. The usage of stock footage adds to the film’s offbeat tone where it does play like a documentary mixed in with a traditional fictional narrative yet it would come into play during its second act following the miner’s death as he’s trying to understand what happened to him. Teshigahara’s usage of close-ups and medium shots get him to showcase some of the action including the murder as it is witnessed by the shopkeeper and the miner’s son (Kazuo Miyahara) who would remain silent throughout the film not exactly sure what he saw.

Teshigahara’s direction also captures a lot of coverage into the locations with some unique wide shots of the local village that is desolate and what the miner would later see as a ghost when the village was thriving. It would be a sharp contrast to what is happening as it play into this conflict between union leaders with the miner’s double Otsuka running a new mine that is thriving as he is baffled by what happened at the old mine pit as he would figure out what is going on while the opposing union leader Toyama (Sen Yano) would also go to the old mine pit to find out what has been happening. Yet, it all plays into the fates carried out by this mysterious man in white as well as the miner who deals with some of the futilities of death. Overall, Teshigahara crafts a rapturous yet chilling film about a miner’s desire for a better life is stopped by a mysterious figure who plays with the fates of many.

Cinematographer Hiroshi Segawa does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it play into the desolate landscape of the location with its natural approach to lighting and usage of available light for a few scenes set at night. Editor Fusako Morimichi does excellent work with the editing as it help play into the suspense and drama with some rhythmic cuts while maintaining some long shots and knowing when not to cut. Production designer Kiyoshi Awazu and art director Masao Yamazaki do terrific work with the look of the shopkeeper’s shop in its ruined state as well as the village itself when it was a thriving place at the time. The sound work of Kenji Mori, Junosuke Okuyama, and Toru Takemitsu does superb work with the sound in capture the atmosphere of the locations as well as help play into the usage of sound to play up the drama and suspense. The film’s music by Toshi Ichiyanagi, Yuji Takahashi, and Toru Takemitsu is incredible for its array of music ranging from dissonant string-based pieces, traditional Japanese folk and woodwinds, and low-key orchestral cuts that help play into the drama and suspense.

The film’s wonderful cast feature some notable small roles from Hideo Kazne as a corrupt policeman who uses the shopkeeper for sexual favors and Kazuo Miyahara as the miner’s son who would see what really happened but is unable to understand what is going on as he prefers to get candy from the shopkeeper’s shop. Kei Sato is terrific as the reporter trying to understand what is going on as well as see if there is anything off about the murder while Kunie Tanaka is superb in his mysterious role as the man in the white suit who seems to be a man in control of the fates of everyone. Sen Yano is fantastic as a rival union leader in Toyama who believes something about the miner’s murder isn’t right as he is convinced it’s a conspiracy against him. Sumie Sasaki is excellent as the shopkeeper as a woman who would witness the miner’s murder but would give police officials false reports as it would play into her own morality and fate. Finally, there’s Hisashi Igawa in a brilliant dual performance as the poor miner and the mining leader Otsuka where he displays that air of confusion and frustration in the former while being more reserved and suspicious as the latter as is disturbed that the murder victim looks a lot like himself.

Otoshiana is an incredible film from Hiroshi Teshigahara. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, an eerie music score, and chilling themes of death and fate amidst a social and political struggle in rural areas of Japan. The film is an exploration of a man trying to find work in an unknown world only to deal with the fact that he has no control of his fates and its aftermath. In the end, Otoshiana is a sensational film from Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Hiroshi Teshigahara Films: Woman in the Dunes - The Face of Another – (The Man Without a Map) – (Summer Soldiers) – Antonio Gaudi - (Rikyu) – (Princess Goh)

© thevoid99 2019

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