Terayama Shuji (1935-1983)
The Boxer (1977)
Cloud Cuckooland (1978)
Video Letter (with Shuntaro Tanikawa) 1982-83
Experimental Image World
(7 Volume Collection)
Poet, playright, theatre director, filmmaker, essayist, agitator and lover of all things anarchistic, chaotic, and truthful, TERAYAMA SHUJI (1936-1983) is one of Japan's most revered and respected artists. In the heady and extremist Japanese art scene of the late '70s, Terayama created a number of unforgettable and highly controversial films. EMPEROR TOMATO KETCHUP is his epic, sexually revolutionary and hallucinatory work from 1972 in which "magical women act as the initiatory, yet protectively maternal sexual partners to children. The children, in revolt, have condemned their parents to death for depriving them of self-expression and sexual freedom; they create a society in which fairies and sex education are equally important and literally combinable." —Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art
Notes on The Emperor Tomato Ketchup
The content of The Emperor Tomato Ketchup is intentionally graphic and disturbing, meant to exploit the purile fixation of man to the socially, aesthetically and ethically abhorrent. The scenes described and the photos included herein may verge on the edge of voyeuristic exploitation if examined with a socially conservative eye. This is not the intent of this author, nor of the original work, though aesthetic and social schema, which define works as pornographic and obscene have been purposefully co-opted, exploited, and subsequently rejected by this film.
The 1968 pistol execution of Bay Lop in Vietnam is by any measure a horrible and morally unconscionable act, tied irrevocably to a photograph which is intrinsically beautiful in composition. The Nazi camp guard who weeps to Schubert after a day of gassing Jews is no less a monster, and also no more than human. One of Terayama's intentions was to capture this duality of innocence and and destruction, brutality and beauty.
The Emperor Tomato Ketchup was originally edited to be 85 minutes, then re-edited and produced at 76 minutes in 1970, and later cut and split into a 28 minute version by the same name, and a 12 minute short entitled janken senso: Paper-Scissors-Rock War in 1971.
The 28 minute version is a condensation of high points from the original, with various patterns of German text splashing the screen a late addition for the German Television Bureau, who printed this version for European audiences.
Paper-Scissors-Rock War is a 12 minute film with one scene, where two generals fighting a never ending war of paper-scissors-rock. This scene stands alone as its one scene within the produced 76 minute version of The Ketchup. Terayama comments on this transformation in his introduction when the short version was shown at the Kanda International Film Festival: "This movie, was first about one and a half hours, but due to the force of public lack of interest, it has bit by bit been cut short, so that now it has become 28 minutes. Next year, it will probably become 5 minutes. So please watch it soon." (NO THANKS 5-6) Kawarabata Yasushi, a noted film critic, notes that "the fault in the short version of The Emperor Tomato Ketchup is that, not so far as Tabasco sauce, but a chili-sauce level taste it has become… the over sweet nasty flavor of Tomato Ketchup has faded." His complaint points to failure of form to support the content or philosophical basis of the conception. The film is not supposed to be easy to stomach; making it so by 'spicing it up' defeats the conceptual basis of the film's basic truth.
The short version was a created export, modified to fill the perceived needs of a European audience and the feedback of viewers in Japan, and does not fully represent Terayama's original vision. The 85 minute cut can be considered a rough cut, or pre-edited version not shown in a public forum. For these reasons, the focus of this study, and all references hence forth to the film, are of the 76 minute 1970 cut, which at the time of writing was available for purchase in VHS format from Image Forum in Tokyo.
Teraryama Shuji in UbuWeb Sound
Teraryama Shuji in UbuWeb Historical