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Kuroneko (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The Criterion Collection
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In this poetic and atmospheric horror fable, set in a village in war-torn medieval Japan, a malevolent spirit has been ripping out the throats of itinerant samurai. When a military hero is sent to dispatch the unseen force, he finds that he must struggle with his own personal demons as well. From Kaneto Shindo, director of the terror classic Onibaba, Kuroneko (Black Cat) is a spectacularly eerie twilight tale with a shocking feminist angle, evoked through ghostly special effects and exquisite cinematography.
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Top Customer Reviews
What makes it so memorable?
First of all, it offers strong characters with powerful, contradictory emotional drives. Torn between family, honor, religious & social demands, they recognize the trap they're in, one determined by outside forces they've internalized. Yet they're unable to resolve those contradictions & save themselves. This sense of the inexorable only grows stronger as the story progresses.
So our young farmer-turned-samurai is faced with the bloodthirsty ghosts of his wife & mother, who have vowed to destroy all samurai, but retain enough of their memories & humanity to want to spare him. For his part, he relishes his rise in social status, yet desperately wants to be reunited with his wife & mother, partly out of guilt for not being there to save them.
Then there's the cinematography & the bold direction of Kaneto Shindo, making superb use of dense masses of shadow & sudden pools of unearthly light. There's a minimum of gore & gratuitous shock; instead, the emphasis is on atmosphere & tension, brought to a slow & almost unbearable boil. It has a dreamlike quality, one that can turn from haunted beauty to outright nightmare in an instant. In a way, I'm reminded of Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast" -- there's the same sense of some ancient folk tale retold in strangely intimate terms -- but where Cocteau properly brings his film to a deserved fairy tale conclusion, Shindo ventures into darker & more ambiguous territory.
As with his previous "Onibaba" (which is the perfect companion to "Kuroneko"), Shindo's sympathies are with the women. For all their visual beauty, his films don't glamorize the samurai, or men in general. His concern is more with those who have to suffer the consequences of living in a world shaped by masculine hungers; thus even his historical films speak eloquently to the present.
Most highly recommended!
And so the ghost story begins with rape, murder and the family's black cat mewling next to two bodies.
The story is simple, tragic, lovely. A wonderful piece of art that I bought from Amazon.com on a whim. And I am so happy I did. In some ways it reminds me a tad of Rashomon, as it suggests more than one view point or story is going on at the same time. Or maybe it is because I can't help but feel sorry for the ghosts. Or are they cat demons?
A Samurai is asked to kill the ghosts. How will he handle it? How do you kill ghosts? And what happens if he decides the ghosts were once his own family...?
If you liked this one may I suggest Rashomon (The Criterion Collection)?
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