Nov 30


Written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03), WIT Life is a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language.  Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Last week I had the opportunity to see some amazing works from legendary avant garde Japanese poet, dramatist, writer, film director, and photographer Shuji Terayama. I hadn’t heard of him before, but many critics view him as one of the most productive and provocative creative artists to come out of Japan. He has also been cited as an influence on various Japanese filmmakers from the 1970s onward. The three films screened were Americans, who are you (アメリカ人あなたは), Laura (ローラ) and The Trial (審判).

A special treat was that Laura included the restaging of Terayama’s 1974 film performance with the original actor, Henrikku Morisaki, who was in attendance. This short film feature female strippers who are berating the audience, when all of a sudden a spectator (Morisaki) enters the film. We saw scenes of him as a young man in this role, being stripped and assaulted by the women. At the end of the film he emerged from behind the screen, this time naked and holding his torn clothes. In an interview post-screening, Morisaki told stories about his work with Terayama over the course of almost 17 years. He described himself as the go-to guy when Terayama needed someone to strip, as well as shared details about Terayama’s personal life such as that he had two turtles (an animal that often appears in his films) named Question and Answer (with Question being bigger than Answer, as there are more questions than answer). He also said that Terayama thought of himself as a “black” Japanese due to his roots in Aomori Prefecture, which affected his identity. This was interesting in light of the fact that many of the interview subjects in the 1960’s documentary Americans were African-American, but it’s unclear whether this was deliberate or not.

Screenings of several other Terayama’s films will continue through the 10th at Anthology Film Archives, so make sure to check some of them out before then!

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