The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, July 8-14

07/08/2015 7:28 AM |

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Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto
The ninth edition of Japan Cuts will present a new 4K restoration of Yamamoto’s animated masterwork. Belladonna of Sadness (whose script was inspired by Jules Michelet’s 1862 book Satanism and Witchcraft) unfolds in 14th-century France, where a young peasant woman named Jeanne (voiced by Aiko Nagayama) opens her body up to a malicious baron for him to permit her marriage to her beloved, similarly impoverished Jean (Katsutaka Ito). She is subsequently socially disgraced, even in the eyes of her loved one, and considers an offer from a phallus-shaped, cloud-trailing Devil (Tatsuya Nakadai) who solicits her flesh and soul in exchange for magical gifts with which she might gain control over her life. The film’s painful moments are often rendered in psychedelically explosive colors, during which the camera pans over individual watercolor-painted frames while Masahiko Satô’s intense contemporary score plays. As angered crowds are shown approaching a young woman who has been stripped of power, violated, and left alone to face invading elements, the sensation that the film gives is of a distant-but-close view of history. Its depictions of Jeanne’s troubles encourage viewers to look closely at the past, and in doing so, to see themselves. Aaron Cutler (July 10, 10:30pm at Japan Society as part of Japan Cuts 2015)