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Harvard Film Archive: Shuji Terayama

  • 27 Nov 2017
  • 7:00 PM
  • Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Monday, November 27, 2017 at 7:00PM

     Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Video Letter

Pensive yet playful, Video Letter is a meditation on identity, death, and the limits of language. Made in collaboration with friend and poet Tanikawa Shuntaro (who also experimented with video and sound technology), it draws inspiration from renga poetry, a traditional form in which two poets correspond in alternating verses. Terayama and Tanikawa film themselves alone, sifting through possessions, unpacking nesting boxes, and leafing through poetry and photographs (as in so many of his films, Terayama is haunted by images of his mother). They share a phone call, and use intertitles and voiceovers as missives. Indeed, words are repeated and relished, obliterated with a marker pen, and swallowed in a wink and half-smile for the camera. The addressee of Tanikawa’s final intertitle is left blank, and Video Letter closes with the scrolling electrocardiogram that Tanikawa took from Terayama’s bedside. The cardiogram traces Terayama’s final moments in a cursive verse that underlines a life’s work.

Directed by Shuntaro Tanikawa and Shuji Terayama
Japan 1983, digital video, color, 74 min. Japanese with English subtitles


Curated by Go Hirasawa and Julian Ross with Haden Guest.

Film descriptions by Haden Guest and Becca Voelcker.

Presented in partnership with Anthology Film Archives; National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and the George Eastman Museum, with the generous support of the Kinoshita Group. Special thanks: Theodore C. Bestor and Stacie Matsumoto—Reischauer Institute, Harvard; Hisashi Okajima, Akira Tochigi and Chizuru Usui—National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Japan Foundation; Jed Rapfogel—Anthology Film Archives; Julian Ross; Go Hirasawa.

Tickets go on sale 45 minutes prior to show time. The HFA does not do advance ticket sales.


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