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The video essay on the Criterion release is worth its weight in gold.
Hiroshi Teshigahara's first feature, Pitfall, explores what it means to work in a mining town by way of an existential and supernatural crime drama. Blasting us with documentary footage of mining accidents early on, he reminds us that the business is rife with tragedy. As we follow a migrant miner as his young son enter an empty town, we recognize that communities sprouting around mines eventually become ghost towns when the ore runs out, and Teshigahara will play on that pun and fill the streets with ghosts in due course, implying a horrific fate for the dead. When the action moves to the almost procedural investigation of our miner's death - and the odd plot point about a doppelganger who may have been the real victim - I was at first displeased with the shift, but it's all part of the theme. This is, above all, a portrait of poverty and powerlessness, where evil or at least amoral forces act on the characters, pits them against one another, scrabbling in the mud for scraps (like terrible, unsafe mining jobs) to survive. And even that may be beyond them. Despite the supernatural elements, and the director's occasional, inspired, lyrical image superimpositions, this is as savage a piece of social naturalism as you'll find. Bleak, and yet, the absurdity of life does make it a wry and very, very black comedy as well.
Remarkable movie. The tender trio of Abe, Teshigahara and Takemitsu prevail yet again.
It has a lot in common with TWITD and The Face of Another. It has the great backdrop and scenery of coal mines (much like the dunes in TWITD) and the commentary on human existence that feels like a trademark for Teshigahara. Pitfall is probably the most cinematic out of the three, as it features a seemingly interesting murder mystery and a surreal look on the land of the dead. The cinematography is top-notch as are the themes the movie wields.
Along with its two companion pieces, Pitfall forms a magnificent vision by a really talented director. It is one of those trilogies that you could talk about for hours on end in the right company. This film isn't as open to interpretation (aside from the the man in the suit) as TWITD or as rooted in philosophy as The Face of Another but it is really captivating and full of those little details that are just waiting for you to figure them out.
Nothing beats white rice.
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #5 in Eureka!'s The Masters of Cinema Series
This movie ranks #118 in Butler's Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds on Screen
This movie ranks #416 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #582 in Doubling the Canon