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Grass Labyrinth

Grass Labyrinth (Kusa Meikyū) is a Japanese film by director Shūji Terayama. Only forty minutes long, it was released in France in 1979 along with two other short avant-garde films by directors Just Jaeckin and Walerian Borowczyk.

A young man named Akira (Takeshi Wakamatsu) is seeking the music and lyrics to a song he loved as a boy. In his search he slips into a time-warp, and his childhood and adulthood blend together. There are balls, big and small. One is a dinosaur-egg-sized pregnancy stone, which may have magically impregnated Akira's mother. He's desperate to know the song completely, and in the film's frantic wanderings, Akira's labyrinth, he happens upon the grungy home of an insane nymphomaniac witch. This tormented girl has been waiting ages for her lover to return. She sheds her clothes and attempts to seduce (or rape?) Akira the boy (Hiroshi Mikami) in a scene that's brilliantly insane. It's alarming too. My eyes were wide open for all of it. And the screeching panicky bird and witch's ghostly make-up make it all the more bewitching.

Akira frees himself until his mother ties him to a tree, to protect him, she says, and, for good measure, she writes magical words across his skin and clothes in order to stave off the lonely nympho demon should she come round. Later, Akira visits a brothel, watches the body of a woman wash up on shore (who has drowned herself after a love affair with a war deserter), and he seemingly gets trapped in a maze-like house near the film's end, in a grotesque, incredibly compelling scene that must be watched since it defies accurate written description.

I've read that Terayama's other films also depict the nightmarish dread children experience when they encounter cruelty and indifference. In Grass Labyrinth, Akira is obsessed with that song he once knew, and nostalgia certainly plays a role in his story, mixed in with distorted memories, and everything through a surreal lens. There are countless compelling scenes, with plenty of colors, and series after series of short cuts for a remarkably intense effect, making it all the more disturbing. Definitely memorable.

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