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Woman in the Dunes [VHS]

4.6 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô, Kôji Mitsui, Sen Yano
  • Directors: Hiroshi Teshigahara
  • Writers: Eiko Yoshida, Kôbô Abe
  • Producers: Kiichi Ichikawa, Tadashi Ôno
  • Format: Black & White, Original recording reissued, Original recording remastered, NTSC
  • Subtitles: English
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Criterion Collection, The
  • VHS Release Date: January 2, 2001
  • Run Time: 123 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305174024
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,012 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

An entomologist searching for insects by the seaside is trapped by local villagers into living with a widow whose life task is digging up sand for them, and eventually develops strong feelings for her. Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara Writers: Kôbô Abe (novel), Kôbô Abe (screenplay), 1 more credit » Stars: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By V. N. Dvornychenko on April 3, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
When I first saw this movie a number of years ago it made a tremendous impression. I had walked in "cold" into an LA art theatre and had no idea what I was watching and what to expect. But I soon found myself mesmerized as if under the spell of the Ancient Mariner - it still retains some of this power today.
The plot of this movie has been fairly well summarized by several reviewers. For completeness, I give a thumbnail sketch: A youngish man for the city (Tokyo) goes to a desolate part of the countryside to collect insects (his hobby). He overstays, and misses the last bus back. The local villagers decide to put him up with "Granny" - who turns out to be thirtyish, not-unattractive woman, who ominously lives at the bottom of a sand pit. The next morning the man finds the ladder removed, and himself trapped in the sand pit. Much of the movie portrays his half-hearted attempts to escape, and his tempestuous relationship with his woman "jailor." Near the end of the movie he is given a clear and easy chance to escape, but decides to "postpone" his departure.
This film is an adaptation of the novel by the same name by the Japanese writer, Kobo Abe. A major and fascinating writer, Abe shares stylistic affinities with Dostoyevsky and (especially) Camus. Alienation and loss of identity are prominent Abe motifs (as they are with Camus). The movie was made in Japan; so unlike many Hollywood films, it is fairly faithful to the novel. For stylistic reasons, it was made in black and white: shadows are an essential element in the mood.
An extreme reductionist view of the film/novel might go something like this: The movie explores the eternal dance by which man and woman accommodate themselves to each other.
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Format: DVD
Filmmaker Hiroshi Teshigahara was a true artiste who saw film as one of several creative outlets, which is why the sum of his cinematic output feels relatively paltry compared to his contemporaries. The Criterion Collection has smartly seen fit to present a four-disc DVD set showcasing his three most accomplished works - plus four shorts and a feature-length documentary about Teshigahara and his most frequent collaborator, author/screenwriter Kôbô Abe. Teshigahara's style can best be described as avant-garde, especially compared to the previous generation of Japanese filmmakers who focused far more on narrative structure and emotional consistency - Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu. As judged by these works, Teshigahara seems far interested more in challenging a viewer's sensibilities with movies that confound as much as they resonate. The results were not always successful, but they are well worth experiencing.

The first film of the set, 1962's "Pitfall" (****), represents Teshigahara's debut as a feature filmmaker and is both an expressionistic ghost story and a scathing social critique of Japan's post-WWII labor conditions within the mining industry. The mystery-laden plot focuses on a poor coal miner, who is murdered in front of his young son after moving to a ghost town where the local mine becomes a battleground between the two unions that run it. The miner's ghost attempts to solve the crime and figure out the motive, all the while as mistrust permeates the community with more deaths occurring. The filmmaker's social agenda sometimes gets in the way of a corking detective story, but he also presents a haunting, often surreal allegory of social alienation and moral bankruptcy.
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Format: VHS Tape
In Japan,this film is titled SUNA NO ONNA. In 1964, the movie won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes, and it was nominated for two Oscars. It was directed by the multi-talented Hiroshi Teshigahara, who as well as a film director, was a poet, calligrapher, a wood block artist, had worked with ceramics, and had directed opera. It was based on a novel by Kobe Abe. The themes prevelant in the film leap from Zen parable to existential horror and Noh drama. It is reminiscent of stories by Franz Kafka, like METAMORPHOSIS.

The cinematographer was Hiroshi Segawa, and he played with light and shadow like a painter, finding a perfectly balanced blend between Abe's prose and Teshigahara's vision. He helped Sand become the third major character in the film, giving it personality, creating a Dali-esque canvas. He photographed sand as if it were a breathing beast, with wind rippling over the white dunes spreading the sand like waves of water, flapping the edges like it was moving silk. And he utilized a lot of extreme close-ups of skin pores choked with grains of sand, and sweaty strands of hair with sand granules clinging to them.

Toru Takemitsu did the music. The score was minimalist, yet powerful and staccato, piercing through us with flute, drum, and strings. The music only materialized when it was needed and necessary. Most of the film was not underscored with music. We heard breathing, moaning, rolling waves, shoveling, the crackling of fire, the bubbling of water, soap on skin, and the terrible creaking of old wood as that house swayed beneath the steady onslaught of the sand.
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