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Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara: Pitfall / Woman in the Dunes / The Face of Another (The Criterion Collection)

Eiji Okada , Ky˘ko Kishida , Hiroshi Teshigahara    Unrated   DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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In addition to being a celebrated milestone of Japanese cinema, Woman in the Dunes is surely one of the most sensual films ever made--not in the purely erotic sense (although eroticism is certainly a potent element), but as a work of pure cinema, in which cinematography and nature combine as powerful forces of artistic expression, melded with a timeless parable of the human condition. Dialogue is sparse and precise, submitting to dreamlike atmosphere and imagery that is genuinely universal; this is the cinematic equivalent of a prehistoric cave drawing, telling a story for all humankind.

Woeful of the trappings of civilization, a young entomologist enjoys solitary fieldwork among the dunes of an oceanside village. Missing his bus to Tokyo, he accepts an invitation to stay in the home of a young widow, whose hut lies at the bottom of an ominous sand pit. He soon realizes that he has been trapped, and that his new role as surrogate husband--helping with the Sisyphean task of shoveling the daily torrent of windblown sand--has been forced on him by a mysterious conspiracy of villagers, who supply provisions from above via rope and pulley. As time passes, the man's initial fury gives way to gradual acceptance, until life in the sand pit seems preferable to attempted escape.

Hiroshi Teshigahara was a 37-year-old novice when he made this film, which received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film. Intimately observing the emotional arc of his characters, Teshigahara incorporates sex, desperation, ingenuity, suffering, pleasure, and much more into this hypnotic visual experience (accompanied by Toru Takemitsu's masterful score), in which sand becomes the third and most dominant character. With images and sequences that are hauntingly and unforgettably evocative, Woman in the Dunes remains a truly extraordinary work of cinematic art. --Jeff Shannon


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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Myth of Sisyphus May 30 2004
Format:DVD
I read Kobo Abe's book WOMAN IN THE DUNES years before I saw this film. I loved the book and think it's Abe's masterpiece, but, good as it is, it certainly didn't prepare me for the shimmering and enigmatic beauty of the film.
WOMAN IN THE DUNES begins when a Japanese entomologist visits a remote and sandy area of Japan in search of rare specie of tiger beetle. Unfortunately, he misses the last bus back to town and has to sleep in the home of one of the villagers, something he thinks will be an interesting experience. I suppose he should have expected something strange was going on when he found out the house was at the bottom of a sandpit, but he doesn't seem to find this at all strange. What he does find strange, however, is that when he awakens during the night, the woman is not sleeping, but is, instead, outside shoveling sand away from the house. He goes back to sleep, thinking her bizarre behavior is really not his problem, but in the morning, he finds that the rope ladder he used to descent to the woman's house is gone and he is trapped.
The woman explains to her visitor that both her husband and daughter died in a sandstorm and now, her visitor is expected to remain and help her shovel the sand and send it up to the surface in buckets. In fact, it's necessary, she tells him, for she can't do it alone and, if they don't do it together, the house (as well as the neighboring house) will not only cave in, but the villagers above will have nothing to sell.
If the above doesn't seem to make any sense, then you've caught the point of the film very well. Life, it seems, is, more often than not, pointless. And, we are captives of this pointlessness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable. March 20 2003
Format:DVD
Certainly, "Woman in the Dunes" is not for everybody. But I watched it two weeks ago, and am having a difficult time forgetting it. A Japanese "L'enfer c'est les autres," but so much more! A must for anyone who enjoys thinking about life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing Jan. 13 2003
Format:DVD
A man from Tokyo roams the Japanese desert to get away from the busy city and to capture various insects for study. He wanders a little too far with nowhere to stay as night approaches. The local villagers tell him that he can stay with a local woman. They lower a ladder down into a house in the midst of a sand pit. The woman is attractive, friendly and hospitable. When the man attempts to leave the next morning, he discovers that he has been tricked: there's no way out of the pit without the ladder, which has mysteriously vanished.
The obvious questions are why has this man been trapped and what is his role in the village? I won't go into the answers, but 'Woman in the Dunes' gives viewers a lot to think about and a lot to examine. Part allegory, part parable, part fable, 'Woman in the Dunes' is an absorbing story of loneliness, manipulation, and sexual energy.
'Woman in the Dunes,' if nothing else, is a glorious lesson in cinematography. The film's images are guaranteed to stay with you for a long, long time. In some ways, 'Woman in the Dunes' contains some of the most spectacular desert scenes ever filmed. They are not on the same scale of a film like 'Lawrence of Arabia,' but they are nonetheless spectacular. But the film is much, much more. This is a film you'll find yourself thinking about for a long time afterward.
2 hours, 3 minutes
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4.0 out of 5 stars it's really 4 and 1/2 stars June 10 2002
By fCh
Format:DVD
Jeff Shannon in the editorial review really does justice to this movie in his 3 paragraphs.
the "Reviewer: A viewer from Miami, Florida" misses the point. you don't compare this movie to "reality" to validate its value--you don't do that with most art/holywood movies either.
the big strength of this movie is its artistic representation of what happens in real life: how one entraps onself in a given situation and then meaning is generated anew. this is a very human(istic) characteristic present throughout our history.
i am retaining 1/2 of a star for the not so smooth technical realization of this great movie. as for the eroticism lable slaped throughout you may well ignore it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Quality Lasts March 22 2002
By A Customer
Format:DVD
Thirty years ago I saw this film for the first time, and for thirty years I've remembered the beautiful cinematography and the haunting images. I just went back and watched the DVD, afraid that it couldn't be as good as I remembered. It is.
An entomologist searches the desert for unknown beetles, hoping to achieve fame. Comfortable and careless, he assumes that he is in control of his world. Suddenly everything is reversed and he is trapped as completely as the beetles he arranges in display boxes. Wonderful to see a movie that talks about life in human and humane terms, instead of a plot-heavy paint-by-numbers formula from Hollywood. Watching at 20, I saw a parable about the precariousness of life and how easily a wrong step could doom a person to a life of drudgery. Now, at 50, the images of being trapped in the relentlessness of work seems less connected to the sand trap our hero finds himself in, and more a condition of life itself. By world standards those of us with DVDs and the leisure to watch them are wealthy indeed, but still the need to do the work that the world confronts us with remains. Work and eat. Don't work, don't eat. It's a simple reality that Teshigahara treats with compassion, dignity and beauty.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars everything as the same as the novel !
I read the book on " Woman in the Dunes " and to my amazement the producer did a wonderful job portraying the story in great detail on this DVD ! ! Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2001 by Tony L. Alexander
4.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic
A quiet, surreal, psychological horror story. There is much to contemplate in this tale of an entomologist, the woman with whom he is imprisoned, and the savage villagers who... Read more
Published on May 19 2001 by David Bonesteel
5.0 out of 5 stars Dummies need not apply ....
Ok so if you are reading movie reviews of a 1964 subtitled B&W film from a Japanese director you may already have passed the test. Read more
Published on April 30 2001 by Rudolf Spoerer
1.0 out of 5 stars Could there be a worse movie?
I am a college student majoring in film with an emphasis or writing and directing. We had to watch this film in one of my film classes. One word: junk. Read more
Published on Dec 8 2000 by betsy ross
4.0 out of 5 stars perfect film, flawed transfer
"Woman in the Dunes" is easily one of my most favourite films, entrancingly visual and deeply thought-provoking. Read more
Published on May 24 2000
2.0 out of 5 stars Woman in the Dunes DVD Transfer
"Woman in the Dunes" is a minor classic of Japanese cinema; beautiful to watch, intriguing, and with a superb score and sound track by Toru Takemitsu. Read more
Published on March 22 2000 by Frederick Edell
3.0 out of 5 stars Rent before you buy
Not as profound as critics would have you believe. The story makes the basic point that prisoners sometimes come to love their prisons and never want to leave. Read more
Published on March 7 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, erotic, mystical, superb film!
You have to watch "Woman in the Dunes" several times to even begin to catch all the symbolism in this amazing film. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2000
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