At the weekend I picked up an intriguing Masters of Cinema DVD. The 40-page accompanying booklet – featuring an essay and stills from the film – led me to expect great things, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Director Nobuhiko Obayashi was an experimental film maker who had become a big name in Japanese commercials in the 70s, directing hit ‘CMs’ starring the likes of Charles Bronson and Kirk Douglas, but he had never made mainstream narrative cinema.
Toho’s decision to let this outsider direct a feature demonstrated the crisis facing Japan’s traditionally rigid film industry at the time. Obayashi was asked by desperate Toho executives to deliver “the Japanese Jaws“, and House (Hausu) is what he came up with.
The film was supposedly inspired by the director’s young daughter, who one night pondered how scary it would be if your house attacked you. Her nightmarish ideas – a piano chewing off your fingers; electric lights dropping on your head; being mangled by the gears of a grandfather clock – are all present in this kaleidoscopic, funny and visually-innovative film. I hope these images whet your appetite to seek it out.
House features a cameo from groovy pop group Godiego. I love their soundtrack song “Cherries Were Made For Eating”:
Finally, the brilliant Ubuweb has several early experimental films by Obayashi, all free to watch online.