A surreal, isolated village sees its inhabitants gradually leave behind their mutual traditions and superstitions as they leave for the city. Among them are two cousins who love each other and who get into a quarrel with other villagers.
Near a remote Buddhist monastery, a young man falls in love with his sister and gets her pregnant. After a monk finds out, the young man becomes an assistant to a master sculptor, only to proceed to complicate matters with his affairs.
Two interwoven stories. The first is a biography of anarchist Sakae Osugi which follows his relationship with three women in the 1920s. The second centers around two 1960s' students researching Osugi's theories.
Terayama's mastery of the image is inarguable. His compositions - kaleidoscopic, supersaturated, overpowering - are an integral part of his films' unique emotional landscape. He could almost be described as a director of Japanese kink, were his films not so deeply philosophical, cerebral and achingly emotional.
Here, Terayama paints his childhood in broad strokes, then proceeds to shake his head as if disappointed at the results; his images are an embellishment, he concedes, and the rest of the film delves more deeply into the metaphysical as he literally steps foot into his childhood to try to understand it and, if possible, change it, if only to find out what will happen if he does.
The film is charged with budding eroticism, a portrait of an adolescent's confusion juxtaposed with a man's midlife existentialism. Terayama was a fascinating man and he's putting his soul on display in this film, his own poetry woven through it as his memories ring with the surreal and come across more coherently as feelings than as literal moments. The figures of his childhood walk larger than life until, finally, the thin walls of memory come crashing down and the past is forsaken in favour of an urban present.
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