Kusa-meikyu (Grass Labyrinth) (1983) - Rotten Tomatoes

Kusa-meikyu (Grass Labyrinth) (1983)





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In this 40-minute avant-garde film based on a story by the surrealist writer Kyoka Izumi, director Shuji Terayama uses the pretext of a young man's determination to recover the lyrics and music to a song he loved in his childhood in an exploration of widely variant perceptions of reality. Akira (Takeshi Wakamatsu) is haunted by a "bouncing ball" song that he remembers his mother singing when he was a small child, and now on the verge of a sexually active adulthood, he wants to find the origins of the song. The young man ostensibly wanders into a time-warp in which aspects from his childhood and adulthood mix together. In this never-never land he comes across a beautiful woman/witch who is lost inside the labyrinth of her mansion, just as the young man is lost in the labyrinth of time -- and on some levels, perhaps the labyrinth of his subconscious. Foreboding scenes come and go like a part of a chilling nightmare or hallucination and cannot be followed logically. An English narration accompanies the disparate visual scenes, but does not necessarily clarify this strange and compelling journey. Originally released in 1979 as one of three "featurettes" in the French omnibus film Collections Privées, Kusa Meikyu was re-released in Japan after the death of Shuji Terayama in 1983, to much fanfare and publicity. Many critics consider this his best film, and some feel it is emblematic of the essence of Japanese cinema.


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Unfolds slowly even at 40 minutes but contains many arresting visuals. The resolution was something of a letdown following a collection of very bizarre dream sequences. Interesting to discover Shuji Terayama also directed a short film called Emperor Tomato Ketchup, which was lifted by the European electropop band Stereolab for their most critically acclaimed album in 1996.

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