Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2001 12:41 pm
Location: Carlisle, Kentucky
Kuroneko, or The Black Cat
Kuroneko - aka The Black Cat. I know very little about the career and work of director Kaneto Shindo, but I like what I have seen very much. Shindo is director of the erotic thriller Onibaba which is set in medieval Japan and has subtle supernatural, more accurately dreamlike/nightmarish, elements that make it a near fable. Almost simultaneously with the DVD release of Island of Lost Souls, Criterion released Kuroneko, another of Shindo's works in the late 1960s.
Kuroneko is much more overtly supernatural and somewhat less erotically charged than Onibaba, but it still has the dreamlike elements which make both movies so very interesting to watch. They both seem very staged-looking, in a style that strongly resembles the more famous movie anthology of Japanese folk tales, Kwaidan. The staginess is not a detraction. Shindo uses his sets to give the encounter with the supernatural an otherworldly like quality, as if one stepped into the world of the dead that these women have come to inhabit.
Kuroneko opens with a simple grass hut on the edge of a dense forest. Slowly, war-weary and hungry samurai warriors emerge from the forest and invade the hut. Inside, a woman and her daughter-in-law are attacked, raped, and murdered by the samurai and their hut burned to the ground. The bodies of the women, however, are not consumed by the flames. Soon a black cat, a family pet, comes in and there is the hint of some kind of consummation with a dark spirit embodied by the cat.
The mother and daughter-in-law become an interesting merging of vengeful ghost and vampire, taking their revenge out on the samurai who murdered them one by one. They lure them into the trees and eventually feast on their blood. (The method of doing so is beautiful to watch and utterly mesmerizing.)
The feudal lord has seen one of the ghosts floating about near one of the castle gates and demands that the samurai general do something about it.
We also learn that the man of the house - the mother's son, the daughter-in-law's husband - was conscripted by the feudal lord to go fighting on one of the fronts of the civil wars. There he succeeds in killing a notorious warlord samurai and earns for himself an exalted place at court.
The price for being the new kid amongst the palace samurai is to go and destroy the thing that is killing off all the other samurai.
What follows is a both a love story and an old school Japanese ghost story that is marginally familiar to ghost stories out of European tradition, but most definitely originating out of the rich mythos of Japanese monsters. Most specifically, a black cat’s paw plays an incredibly important role that had me recalling Mark Twain’s famous account of “The Golden Arm.”
There isn’t much of a moral attached to this story as much as it is a well told ghost story with a perfectly cast triangle of protagonists. But if I were pressed to declare a theme, it’s that you simply cannot trust your mother.
Oh yeah, down here, I am considered the apotheosis of cool - Sewer Urchin
This is an appalling film. And for some of you, well worth your time - SSM
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