Woman in the Dunes/A,B+

Image/1964/127m/FS 1.33/Subtitles

     One of the creepiest horror films ever made, that is, if you can call it a horror film. Woman in the Dunes is like a nightmare that repeats itself endlessly until it becomes a reality. Part of the brilliance is in the simplicity of delivery. The film is adapted for the screen from the Kobo Abe novel by director Hiroshi Teshigahara and Abe, and brilliantly distills the written words, bit by bit of sand. Teshigahara makes an amazingly powerful visual film. Dialog is spare, clean
     An amateur entomologist makes a trip to the sea shore in hope of finding and categorizing a new insect in the sand. He nurtures hope of some small recognition to lift him from the bonds of everyday humdrum existence. What he encounters at the isolated village by the sea is far from what he or anyone could ever expect.

An umbrella protects against showering sand.. ŠImage

     When ensuing night sneaks up as the man searches in the sand, he realizes he has missed the last bus back to the city. A villager suggests he find shelter for the night and offers to help. He takes the man to the home of a woman, dug out and set into the sand dunes, where the man climbs down a rope ladder to share the woman's humble surroundings for the night. 
     The sand surrounds them, threatening to take back the ground claimed by the house. Water and food must be protected from the falling grains and a mysterious rot eats at the wood of the house. The woman is recently widowed and struggling to keep up with the encroaching sand and the loneliness. 
     Woman in the Dunes casts a hypnotic spell upon its viewer. The power of the sand is mesmerizing. Teshigahara makes full use of the claustrophobic surroundings. Confined by the bounds of a small house which is confined by the encroaching sand makes for suffocating material. The black and white photography adds to the desolation. The stark darkness adds to the isolation. Toru Takemitsu's wonderful score from echoes the the sound of isolation born on the grinding assault of the sand.   
     Movie lovers can count their blessing since Image Entertainment has used excellent source material for the DVD transfer of Woman in the Dunes. This is by far the best print I have seen, which includes several theatrical screenings. There are few scratches in the print and dirt is minimal. Overall, the contrast is well handled, though some of the darker scenes could have used more light and contrast output. Detail is good. Not good enough to count each individual grain of sand, but resolved enough to make you taste the grittiness. White English titles are easy to read on the image. The translation is quite good. The sound is slightly thin, but the only hiss you will hear is the relentless encroachment of the sand. 
     Woman in the Dunes is not to be missed! Cinematic gems such as this are few and far between. 

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