Screen Sorcery: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Belladonna of Sadness (1973) begins with a joyful wedding. We first meet the lovely Jeanne, our guide through this strange fairy tale, and her beau Jim as they exchange marriage vows. When the couple returns to their humble abode, their wedded bliss is interrupted by the arrival of the reigning king and his minions who brutally assault Jeanne in an act of ceremonial rape that … Continue reading Screen Sorcery: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

NIPPON NOIR: SNOW TRAIL (1947)

Senkichi Taniguchi’s Snow Trail aka Ginrei no hate (1947) begins with a bang. A montage of shadowy figures and fragmented images bombard viewers during the film’s opening credits while guns fire, alarms ring, windows break, trains whistle and sirens scream. We soon discover that three desperate men (Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura and Yoshio Kosugi) have just robbed a bank and in a bold attempt to dodge authorities, … Continue reading NIPPON NOIR: SNOW TRAIL (1947)

MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI (2015)

Mifune was a giant in the world of Japanese cinema and although I’ve written a little bit about his background in the past in pieces such as Toshiro Mifune, Japan’s John Wayne and in my review of his first film, Snow Trail (1947), I wanted to know more about the man who had appeared in so many of my favorite Japanese films. My curiosity led … Continue reading MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI (2015)

Fear of Flowers: Under the Blossoming Cherry Tree (1975)

“Without people, a forest of cherries in full bloom is not pretty, just something to be afraid of.” – Ango Sakaguchi Although typically described as a horror film, Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (1975) defies simple categorization. This grisly adult fairy tale is a strange amalgam of traditional Japanese theater, folktales, ghost stories, social commentary, antiwar sentiment, dark humor and existential philosophy based on a story … Continue reading Fear of Flowers: Under the Blossoming Cherry Tree (1975)

Plucking the Petals of Masahiro Shinoda’s Pale Flower (1964)

  “Tokyo… After three long years. It makes my head spin. Just look at it. Why so many people crammed into tiny cage-like boxes? People… Such strange animals. What keeps them all going? They look like they’re half dead. Making a frantic pretense of being alive. What was so wrong about killing one of these stupid animals? I served three years… This is my territory… … Continue reading Plucking the Petals of Masahiro Shinoda’s Pale Flower (1964)

Survival Instincts: THE INSECT WOMAN (1963)

THE INSECT WOMAN (’63) is not easy viewing. Shôhei Imamura’s film recounts the hard-fought life of Tome (Sachiko Hidari), a fatherless peasant woman born into abject poverty in rural Japan. Beginning with her birth in 1918 and concluding sometime after WWII, the film takes place over three turbulent decades in which Tome faces sexual abuse at the hands of her dimwitted stepfather and is provoked … Continue reading Survival Instincts: THE INSECT WOMAN (1963)

My Favorite Films of 2017

I contributed a list of my 20 Favorite Films seen in 2017 to the annual Senses of Cinema World Poll in the form of an illustration scanned & cleaned up in Photoshop. I wanted to have fun with the process this year and didn’t feel much like writing about all the films on my list although there are a few I’d like to discuss further … Continue reading My Favorite Films of 2017

Favorite Film Books of 2017

With the holidays fast approaching I thought I would recommend an eclectic selection of my favorite film books released in 2017 in case you’re looking for gifts to please the cinephiles in your life. My picks include a variety of reading material for all budgets and tastes including many titles that are closely linked to films currently streaming on FilmStruck. Unchained Melody: The Films of … Continue reading Favorite Film Books of 2017

Japan’s Home Alone: ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (1969)

Forget the overplayed John Hughes comedy HOME ALONE (’90). If you want to watch a fun family-friendly film during the holidays look no further than ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (’69) now streaming on the Criterion Channel of FilmStruck. This kinder and gentler Godzilla sequel was designed to appeal to kids of all-ages and features a young boy left home alone who must outsmart some hapless criminals … Continue reading Japan’s Home Alone: ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (1969)

WOMEN AT WAR: ONIBABA (1964)

In feudal Japan, war is being waged between Imperial forces loyal to the reigning emperor and those who support the shogun. Samurai warriors wearing expensive armor and carrying powerful weapons fight side by side with peasant farmers conscripted into military service. Amid this bloody chaos women, children and the elderly suffer unimaginable horrors including rape, disease and widespread famine. This is the grim backdrop of Kaneto … Continue reading WOMEN AT WAR: ONIBABA (1964)