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A Tale of Smallpox

Shūji Terayama
Japan 1975 / 34’
Labirynth’s Tale The Trial

A series of surreal images that overrun the screen just like smallpox infests the body. The bandaged face of a man is juxtaposed against images of snails crawling across it; someone hammers nails into dying patients; automaton-like people play pool. The title refers to a performance by Hijikata Tatsumi, one of the masters of the Butoh dance.

Nikodem Karolak


International Short Film Festival Benalmádena 1975 – Special Award

Shūji Terayama

(1935-1983), one of the most prominent avant-garde reformers of Japanese cinema and theater. He became an unrivaled intellectual, nonconformist and unyielding fanatic, as well as an artist who was deemed scandalous and subversive, an enfant terrible, who managed to revise his native tradition. Famous internationally primarily as the founder of the legendary alternative Tenjō Sajiki theater, he directed a series of films with strong autobiographical themes, including a counter-cultural manifesto based on the collage method Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets, or Death in the Country, which critics compared and contrasted to Federico Fellini's  Eight and a Half, and near the end of his life to create his own version of Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude in Farewell to the Ark, where Macondo culture permeates Japanese myths and beliefs. As a total artist, Terayama not only mixed different genres and conventions, but combined the cinema with theater, destroying the "fourth wall" between the viewer and the artist.

Selected filmography

1971 Rzućmy książki, wyjdźmy na ulice! / Sho o suteyo machi e deyō / Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets

1974 Wiejska ciuciubabka / Den'en ni shisu / Pastoral: To Die in the Country (aka Pastoral Hide and Seek)

1977 Bokser / Bokusā / Boxer

1981 Owoce namiętności / Shanhai Ijin Shōkan / Fruits of Passion

1984 Żegnaj, Arko! / Saraba hakobune / Farewell to the Ark

Cast & Crew

director Shūji Terayama
screenplay Shūji Terayama
cinematography Tatsuo Suzuki
editing Tomoyo Ōshima
music Michi Tanaka
cast Keiko Niitaka, Yōko Ran, Takeshi Wakamatsu, Namiko Tainaka
producer Eiko Kujō
production Terayama World
sales Terayama World
language no dialogue
colouration colour