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149 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let This 'Black Cat' Cross Your Path..., August 18, 2011
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This review is from: Kuroneko (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
[KURONEKO aka BLACK CAT - (1968) - Directed by Kaneto Shindo - Widescreen Presentation] From the director of 'Onibaba' and 'The Island', this genuinely creepy, atmospheric (and somewhat obscure) classic finally gets a stateside release; even more blessed are we that it's getting the Criterion treatment. Riding the critical wave after 'Onibaba' was released, Kaneto Shindo, along with Kiyomi Kuroda, whose award-winning cinematography sets the tone for this film, brilliantly delivers the chills with an underlying tragic story of lost love and revenge, and its Chiaroscuro/Noir visuals are nothing short of breathtaking.

In feudal Japan, a warring group of marauding Samurai seeking food emerge from the dense forest when they come across a house that should have what they require. Upon entering the house, they find it indeed has what they want and a whole lot has women as well. The inhabitants, an elderly woman and her young daughter-in-law are both subjected to continuous sexual assault as each Samurai takes his turn while others plunder the women's food stocks. After the Samurai have satiated their appetites, they leave the women, now unconscious, for dead and set fire to their home as they flee. When the fire eventually burns out, all we see are the burned and battered bodies of the women amid the ruins and their vulnerable black kitten as it licks their charred bodies, a dark and grisly moment captured purrrfectly.

Later on, one night a Samurai approaches on horseback and is met by the spectral vision of a woman, who tells him she is too frightened to make her journey home because she has to pass the Bamboo Grove, which is a known haven for bandits and highwaymen. The Samurai agrees to accompany her to her home, where he is plied with sake. The woman then proceeds to seduce the Samurai before brutally attacking him, devouring his throat and sucking his blood...for we then learn that the two women are in fact Bakeneko, newly embodied catlike vampire spirits of the dead women murdered by the Samurai, who have made a pact with the evil spirits, granting them restored life on the condition that they murder all Samurai who pass their way. These nightmarish acts continue until a young man victorious in war is hired to hunt down the vampires, but he soon realizes to his horror that these creatures are the vengeful souls of his mother and wife who died while he was off at war. He is now torn between his lord, who orders him to rid the forest of ghosts or else he will be killed, and his mother and wife's ethereal forms whom he loves and couldn't possibly fathom killing.

Though it may not sound like it, this film is rife with indelible, grotesque imagery that will stay with you forever, yet maintains a Kabuki play arthouse quality right through to the tense final moments. The swamp location is a perfect setting for the film to take place and director Shindo takes full advantage of it, especially during the scenes where the younger of the two women is leading the stray, egotistical Samurai to their inevitable deaths. If you enjoyed 'Onibaba', 'Kwaidan', or even the more recent 'Kaidan' (a modern retelling of this type of flick), you're certain to appreciate this one. Let this 'Black Cat' cross your path and your luck's bound to be good...
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Showing 1-10 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 1, 2011 4:01:34 AM PDT
Fred says:
good review, but in a way you tell too much of the plot... I don't think you need to give away the entire story to do a review. Maybe just go over the basic story/style elements of the film.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 1, 2011 6:51:37 AM PDT
Fred - I never gave the ending away in this review, I just set the stage for the finale, laying out the protagonist's options and how difficult this decision would be. The final outcome is yet undetermined. Even if you can accurately suspect what this inevitably will be, it's the journey, not the destination, that makes this film special. Thanks for you post - it's sincerely appreciated.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2011 4:42:56 PM PDT
Alias says:
I actually stopped reading your review because although you don't give away the ending, you're revealing WAY too many of the surprises along the way. You are ruining the "journey" to the finale.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2011 1:21:40 PM PDT
Jake Elwood says:
I thought the review was very illuminating. Even if the ending had been given away, you would still want to see the beauty of the black and white film and the imagery.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2011 2:08:21 PM PDT
THANKS for your comments, Anne, they're appreciated. Though it may seem so, I HAVE NOT divulged the ending, I've taken readers to the threshhold and stated the final conflict without ruining it for viewers, though it may appear otherwise. Even if I had, as you understood, the viewing itself is the real reward, even if you knew the ending. As it's been said, it's the journey, not the destination, that makes this film so enjoyable. Stay well, and thanks again. Anthony.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2011 11:20:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 26, 2011 11:21:47 AM PDT
HK says:
Perhaps you should edit or rewrite your review with less details so that the movie isn' spoiled for others. I feel that my enjoyment is diminished by knowing and anticipating everything that will happen.

Posted on Nov 2, 2011 2:27:03 PM PDT
P. White says:
I agree, this is one big spoiler and should be truncated or removed please.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2011 2:49:47 PM PDT
For the third and final time, I HAVE NOT REVEALED THE ENDING in this review and will not address future comments regarding this. Some folks understand this perfectly (as of this date, over 60), so for the rest of you, accept my humble apologies, watch the film and see for yourself. You can't please everybody, and you folks are in a small minority. Mea Culpa.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 7, 2011 2:48:34 PM PST
rhonda says:
Actually the initial reviewer didn't give away the ending. I read the review and it gave the essentials of the film. So much so, that even though I don't like "scary movies" I'm going to get this one. From the description, it seems a bit like that old noir film, I think it was called "The Cat" or "Cat People", very eerie, suspensful & atmosphereic.

Posted on Jun 18, 2012 2:06:58 PM PDT
Nice review Anthony,

I especially liked your comparison to the 'kabuki' theater style. I added my own review as I've noticed some important elements missing from most reviews. Yours was very telling (descriptive), but I don't think you gave the ending or the whole story away as others claim! Good job.

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