As much as I appreciate the sentiment Shūji Terayama is offering here, throwing my book in the street would be ill-advised, as it would make it rather difficult to read the Dostoevsky titan I’m struggling along with. Still, frustration may get the better of me, and Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets offers a disappointing time indeed. Perhaps this let-down comes from a topic that cannot be defined, no, that simply isn’t it, considering how primitive it is, forty years on, to dissect and divulge the pockets of innovation found within this inspired, but annoying film.
Belittling its audience with a snooty predilection almost immediately, Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets sets off on a tale of enlightenment, but finds itself toiling in dark and dingy misery. Sickeningly tinted camerawork, artistry that was undoubtedly revolutionary at the time, but in contemporary moments of interest, it lacks detail or structure. Mere caricatures and skits, themes that do not draw themselves finely or even wish to be defined by anything obvious. The result is an affront to the audience and those interested in unpacking the prosaic tones of Terayama. An interesting figure presents a curious project, but getting into the detail and prominent points of the film is an uphill struggle that is not entirely worthy of such Herculean efforts.
That is not to say, however, that Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets is absent of quality. With a punk rock soundtrack, the influences and presentation are obvious clamours for the underground scene which would soon burst into the mainstream. Undeniably provocative, the film fails to provoke any thought that can be considered entertained or engaged by the political fight the film showcases. Regardless of whether an audience agrees or disagrees with the context, it doesn’t matter too much as Terayama storms through the streets, throwing his camera at all the oddities of life, doing little with them beyond highlighting their existence for a wider audience.
Messy and uncompromising in its vision, Terayama crafts a film that opens thinking it is worthy of appreciation before it provides itself to be. This attitude lingers throughout, basking in the brief potential on display, but otherwise showing itself up as ostentatious, without ever offering examples of where such an attitude would be warranted. Attempting to rock the boat of cinema and how filmmaking is proceeding, the alternative offered by Terayama is neither interesting or superior to the tried and tested cliché found elsewhere. Unique it may be for Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets to crash conflicting tones of violence with oddities of culture, but the end product is not something that I could see feasibly being regarded as entertainment, nor as artistry, as the director scuppers his vision with empty poetry and faux enlightenment.