Japan | 90 min.
black & white
Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1962
Teshigahara’s debut feature, Pitfall [Otoshiana], was the first of his collaborations with novelist/playwright Kobo Abe and composer Toru Takemitsu. Beautifully filmed in an abandoned, postwar coal-mining town in Western Japan, it is part social-realist critique, part unsettling ghost fable. Examining themes of alienation, workers’ rights, and identity, Teshigahara and Abe’s exotically strange film evokes the cinema of Antonioni, Resnais, the writing of Kafka, Beckett, Carroll, and the French existentialists.
A wandering miner, looking for work with his young son, is pursued by a mysterious, silent assassin in a white suit and hat. As mistrust and killings spread through the barely populated, rundown mining community, ghosts of the dead appear, unheard by the living, yet imploring them for answers. Who is the man in white and why does he sow confusion?
Teshigahara coined the term “documentary fantasy” for this study of the powerless, impoverished worker in postwar Japan. Demonstrating a meticulous aesthetic — his father was an ikebana master and founder of the Sogetsu Foundation — Teshigahara’s efforts with Pitfall earned him the NHK Best New Director award and the luxury of being released abroad. Over forty years later, The Masters of Cinema Series proudly presents Pitfall for the first time in the West on home video.
by David Toop, 2004