Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Released: 1973
Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Genre
Director: Eiichi Yamamoto
Starring: Aiko Nagayama, Katsuyuki Itô, Tatsuya Nakadai, ,
Run time: 86 min
IMDb: 7.4/10
Country: Japan
Views: 185145


Blessed–and at the same time cursed–with the precious but fatal gift of beauty, the young peasant, Jeanne, falls in love with the beautiful villager, Jean, in late-1800s France. However, as the village’s foul feudal lord exercises the “Droit du Seigneur” or the “Right of the First Night” on the couple’s wedding night, a desperate plunge to a world of disturbing hallucinations will eventually lead Jeanne to a damned Faustian bargain with the Prince of Darkness. Thirsting for power and sweet retribution, Jeanne will gradually transform into an omnipotent and destructive vessel of seduction, as her newly acquired powers go hand in hand with the blackest of witchcraft. Is there a limit to Jeanne’s hatred?
Written by
Nick Riganas
User Reviews: This film is a masterpiece. There are very few animation films that cross the territory into high art, but this is one. Calling it anime is kind of a disservice as it is more rooted in animated art films than it is anime. This may be Japans first animated masterpiece. But it was not done in a style many of us understand to be anime. It is deeply surrealistic in both imagery and approach. While some scenes are not animated, but rather hand painted still frames which are panned and edited together, but this never detracts from the overall context of the film. The animation itself is a blend of styles throughout the film, but the heavy use of watercolor lends well to the new 4K restored version.

This is a very adult film. It is highly sexual in nature. As an art film though from this era, it is actually not out of bounds. With that being said, art films, especially foreign ones, are not for everybody.

This is a feminist film, but it may be a difficult film to watch for some. So a bit of a trigger warning for those who care. The themes do deal deeply with sexual trauma and violence, and recovering from it. It is also though about finding independence in a patriarchal system, and ownership of ones own sexuality.

So beyond all that, if you do want to experience something different and beautiful, this film is something to behold. Everything from the great psychedelic rock, and free jazz soundtrack, to the mix of animation and artistic styles, we have a film that stands out even to this day. It is unique in what it offers. It’s restoration should be celebrated.

On a side note, I have to credit AFI Silver in Silver Spring, MD for screening this film. It remains one of the best cinema’s in the country as otherwise forgotten films find new audiences. This really has not been screened much in the US.

My hope is this does make it to blu-ray or some other media format. For now the credit is to the new distributors, but also arts cinemas like AFI Silver that are currently screening the film. It is a rare treat to see a film like this.

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