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Pastoral: To Die in the Country

Posted by martinteller on September 13, 2012

Almost every review/comment I can find of this movie invokes the name of Jodorowsky.  The comparison is a difficult one to avoid, he immediately comes to mind.  High-level symbolism, complete disregard for narrative structure, extremely vivid and strikingly composed imagery, characters who are more representations of ideas than people.  There are even camera movements that can best be described as “pure Jodorowsky.”  He also brings to mind Fellini (another name that I notice popping up in other reviews), especially in the circus motif and meta/reflexiveness of it.

Summing the movie up in a nutshell is both easy and difficult.  It’s the story of a pubescent boy struggling with his budding sexuality.  There’s a girl he’s infatuated with, but she’s the subject of some scandal in the village, giving birth out of wedlock.  There’s also some twisted Oedipal things on.  And oh yeah, a circus.  Oh, and the whole thing is being told by a filmmaker trying to accurately represent his childhood.  And then he uses the film as a sort of time machine to see if killing his mother will make him disappear.  Did I mention the circus?  Yeah….

It’s all jumbled together in a way that defies coherence.  It’s pretty difficult to make sense out of most the time, Terayama seems intent on clouding the situation whenever possible, burying things under layers of abstracted metaphors and possibly random nonsense.  Still, it’s compelling if only to see what crazy thing happens next.  The visual style is a knockout, with colored filters (garishly multi-colored for the circus scenes) and wild images seemingly pulled straight from the id.

This is my first experience with Shûji Terayama.  I also have Emperor Tomato Ketchup on my list… though admittedly more because there’s a Stereolab album named after it than anything else.  I wouldn’t mind seeing more.  I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this movie, as I usually found it too incomprehensible to connect with.  But it is one of the oddest films I’ve seen, which is something, and made for an unpredictable viewing experience, which is always a bonus.  Rating: Good (71)


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