Special Series
Free, Shuji Terayama

Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets


Directed by: Shūji Terayama
1971 / 137 minutes / Unclassified 15+

“A lizard in a coke bottle”: An analysis of youth and society against the backdrop of the American counter-culture.

With his first feature-length film, Shūji Terayama presents the provocative and disturbing cinematic adaptation of his celebrated novel and play of the same name. Noise rock and psychedelic vignettes frame the tumultuous society that is home to Hideaki, a dissatisfied, angst-ridden teen dealing with his highly dysfunctional family. In typical Terayama style, the main narrative is interrupted by short sequences introducing various strangers and dialogues, contributing to the poetic portrayal of an anarchistic moment in Japanese history.

Visually breathtaking scenes are contrasted with the violent and bleak sexualisation of women, all captured through the unrelenting male lens. Raw, unsettling camerawork interwoven with music video and documentary-style film techniques are enmeshed with a cacophony of colours, images and sounds—setting the discomforting tone for a stream of consciousness that challenges the audience’s passivity and the consumption of cinema at large.

The film’s synergic oscillation between socioeconomic ferment, romanticised vulgarity, and the relentless struggle for freedom won Terayama the award for best Japanese film of 1971 in the Kinema Junpo poll of film critics, and the grand prize at the 14th San Remo Film Festival.

Audience warning: Contains sexual violence, animal cruelty, sexual references and nudity

Friday 26th November

The Chauvel Cinema, Sydney

Friday 3rd December

ACMI, Melbourne

Screens in: Sydney and Melbourne

Director: Shūji Terayama

Starring: Eimei Sasaki, Masahiro Saito and Yukiko Kobayashi

Genre: Special Series

Category: Free, Shuji Terayama

Language(s): Japanese with English subtitles

This film is part of JFF 2021’s Special Series which honours the prolific and multifaceted artistic career of Shūji Terayama (1935-1983). From the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, Angura (underground) theatre, which imported ‘freak show’ elements, twisted eroticsm and the reinstatement of folklore that had been excluded from modern theatre, reached its zenith in Japan as an anti-establishment movement.  Terayama founded the internationally acclaimed theatre troop ‘Tenjō Sajiki’, and was at the centre of this experimental scene. However, his creation was not limited to theatre, and as a filmmaker, poet and social and cultural commentator, he was a leading figure in the ‘expanded cinema’ being explored in post-WWII Japan.

This program presents a handful of the late auteur’s short and feature-length cinematic work showcasing his signature transgressive approach to filmmaking. From dismantling concepts of time, history and myth to visually audacious portrayals of sexual and political revolution–these films are at once unexpectedly beautiful and discomforting.