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REVIEW: Belladonna of Sadness


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MarshalBanana



Joined: 31 Aug 2014
Posts: 3913
PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2016 1:01 pm Reply with quote
rokon wrote:
I've seen the movie and may be biased since it's been one of my favorites for a few years now, but my take on the Animation rating is this: Yes, the actual amount of cels being animated is quite limited, especially for an anime movie (i.e. there's a lot of panning across large, though static cels). However, when there is animation, it is absolutely movie-level quality. I was never personally sure if this was due to budget constraints or was an artistic choice (though the former seems substantially more likely), but I think the way the movie handles its limited animation is quite masterful.

For example, the first several minutes of the film are again static pans over several of the film's detailed, pastel-colored images describing Jeanne's bliss with Jean and features absolutely no animation. The very first sequence we get of actual animation is when Jeanne is brutally raped by the lord of the area, making the scene doubly impactful. The staff did their best to express this stark shift in tone: a spectrum of colors vs. exclusively white, black, and red; static images vs. detailed, graphic animation.

To this end, the animation, while again limited, is used artistically very well to punctuate scenes of especial importance that the staff wanted to make pop. To that end, I can absolutely understand why the film received an A for Animation if the category is meant to also encompass use of animation in addition to technical skill of animation.
OK thanks that makes a bit more sense now, I suppose "Animation" also contains cinematography, since it doesn't have its own category. Though I will say that putting the thing about it not being fluid in the negative sections, most mean that she finds faults with it.
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horseradish
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2016 5:11 pm Reply with quote
I was captivated by the visual imagery. My favorite scene is when the plague sweeps across the countryside and everything melts and washes away in black and white.
rokon wrote:
As such, the animation, while again limited, is used artistically very well to punctuate scenes of especial importance that the staff wanted to make pop.

When there was animation, I definitely paid more careful attention to the film. If I recall correctly, the often surreal animation was spared for important moments such as interactions with the devil, the rape, the orgies, and her death. The opening theme is quite memorable as well.

The sexual scenes involving peasants reminded me of the independent animator Yōji Kuri, who was very active during the 1960s and made many darkly humorous and surreal sexual shorts. Cartoonish drawings with heads transforming into fingers, naked women spinning around in the air, women keeping men on leashes...

When I saw the movie at the SF Drafthouse, I didn't think much of the story. Instead, I took it for face value as a basic plot about a woman selling her soul to the devil for revenge and ultimately losing her love and her life. The movie claiming that Jeanne's life and death were an impetus for the French Revolution felt a bit tacked on for me in the end. It would be interesting if someone asked Ikuhara about Belladonna's influence on his work, since I have a hard time thinking of anything else in anime that resembles Belladonna.


Last edited by horseradish on Mon May 04, 2020 4:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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dm



Joined: 24 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2016 11:38 pm Reply with quote
I was not nearly as taken with the film as was Gabriella. To me, the imagery was pretty trite and heavy-handed cod-Freudianism in a Peter Max/Milton Glaser knock-off wardrobe. If it truly inspired Ikuhara, I think it's safe to say that Ikuhara transcended his inspiration.

I will admit the final few minutes --- as the ashes of the witch spread the seeds of what became the French Revolution perhaps was the (not very) high point of the film.

That said, I can certainly see the imagery being shocking in its day (the film dates from the 1960s or 70s), and its message having a certain novelty then (though, that era had its share of transgressive works). And I'll concede that Gabriella's review causes me to see the film in a much more positive light.

Even though I'm not wild about the film, I certainly don't begrudge the time spent watching it, and I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to have seen it.
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enurtsol



Joined: 01 May 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 2:18 am Reply with quote
https://drafthouse.com/show/belladonna-of-sadness

I like their very progressive age policy for the movie: Laughing

  • AGE POLICY

    18 and up; Children 6 and up will be allowed only with an adult. No children under the age of 6 will be allowed.
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residentgrigo



Joined: 23 Dec 2007
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Location: Germany
PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 4:11 am Reply with quote
The film itself is "decent" but calling it controversial or X rated (it´s unrated) is nonsense. The film is somewhat acclaimed, proved influential (hello Lupin fans) and has a 16+ over here. Drama queen much?
It was also on the web for over a decade, no losses can be counted.
@MarshalBanana Calling this one animated is a bit hm.... a miss advertisement?
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trilaan



Joined: 17 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 7:41 am Reply with quote
I had never heard of this film but I had a chance to go and see it at my local Alamo Drafthouse theater and I am SO glad I did! This movie was an experience like none other! haunting, beautiful, so very, very (artistically) debauched! I would even go so far as to say it is a movie that MUST be seen as long as you can handle the subject and visuals.
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Usagi-kun



Joined: 03 Jul 2013
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 11:24 am Reply with quote
Thank-you for the review, Gabriella. I actually have a copy of Mushi-Pro's release, but there are no subtitles, and watching it in Japanese made me miss almost half of the content in this review. A lot of things now come together and feel complete, and you are right, this show has a powerful impact. I wasn't aware it was screening stateside, but I live in a city that almost never gets anime releases. I'll check the Bellcourt, at least. They might have snagged it. Even without a scene by scene translation, this film is incredible. I wouldn't call it beautiful in some parts, but definitely haunting, and a textured representation uninhibited by traditional elements of human storytelling. It does pair a lot of religious imagery while casting a shadow of doubt on your own notions of good and evil, but familiar consequences to these conventions force you to choose between morality and your own sense of justice.

Does anyone know if this is getting a Western home release? I heard a rumor about it several months ago...but nothing since.
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SejinPK



Joined: 22 Dec 2013
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 1:12 pm Reply with quote
Usagi-kun wrote:
Does anyone know if this is getting a Western home release? I heard a rumor about it several months ago...but nothing since.


It is! I was a little surprised, just because of how niche the movie is. I was also surprised at how soon it's being released (July 12th). Cinelicious Pics' webpage for the movie has a link to its listing on Amazon, where you can pre-order it. Apparently, it's only being released on Blu-ray, and won't be on DVD. On the right side of Cinelicious Pics' page, they also have a link to the webstore of a site called Hat & Beard Press, who are selling a companion art book (it also has some other nifty-sounding stuff in addition to art). They're offering both standard and limited editions of the book. The first print run only of the standard edition includes the movie on Blu-ray. From the description, I believe that all copies of the limited edition include the movie, as well as some additional things not in the standard edition. The Cinelicious Pics' webpage also lists all showings of the movie in theaters, so you can find out if it'll be playing near you.

(I read the forum rules before making this post, so I realize I *might* be crossing the line regarding the rules about advertising. But I felt that to give a more helpful response, I should include some basic information about the merchandise. One thing I did to try to preemptively ameliorate any possible problems is link to the Cinelicious Pics page, rather than either of the websites selling merchandise. But if any part of my post violates the rules, I have no issues with it being edited by a moderator as necessary.)
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relyat08



Joined: 20 Mar 2013
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 1:24 pm Reply with quote
^Nice! I thought the artbook was already sold out because Hat and Beard was glitching out on me the other day. This is good to see. I will most likely be able to get it next month. Very Happy
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horseradish
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 2:14 pm Reply with quote
Film submissions to Motion Picture Association of America are voluntary and the rating system is not legally enforced, so theaters can have their own age policies as long as no laws or ordinances are broken if I recall correctly. Belladonna of Sadness is Not Rated. The Alamo Drafthouse chain has a similar policy for R-rated movies (more policies here).

There were no minors in the audience at the Belladonna screening I attended. I have no idea what would go through a child's head while watching this movie...but then again, who would bring a kid to watch obscure animation clearly marketed as erotica?


Last edited by horseradish on Mon May 04, 2020 4:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Usagi-kun



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 2:17 pm Reply with quote
@SejinPK, Thank-you! Pre-ordered!
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torchic91



Joined: 27 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 8:46 pm Reply with quote
I had the privilege of seeing the 4K restoration in theatres a few weeks ago. I have difficulty calling the entire film radically feminist considering the exploitative, copious nudity of Jeanne throughout the film, though it certainly has feminist elements embedded within the film.
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rokon



Joined: 17 Jun 2005
Posts: 22
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2016 12:07 pm Reply with quote
torchic91 wrote:
I had the privilege of seeing the 4K restoration in theatres a few weeks ago. I have difficulty calling the entire film radically feminist considering the exploitative, copious nudity of Jeanne throughout the film, though it certainly has feminist elements embedded within the film.


I respectfully have to disagree. I too was able to see the 4K restoration and immediately prior to the film's actual screening, Cinelicious showed a four or five minute introduction to the film in which the speaker also claimed the movie was not a feminist film. (Quite honestly, I was taken aback by this comment and surprised it received Cinelicious's endorsement.) I feel that her reasoning for this was due to the rape scene and other non-consensual sex. However, though Jeanne was clearly traumatized by this, she later gained power over her own sexuality and sense of agency and, spoiler[though she was ultimately labelled a witch and killed for her newfound non-conformist sense of self], the movie showed that her actions and philosophy inspired other women who themselves would later go on to inspire others, eventually leading to the social reform in the French Revolution.

Similarly, the relatively large amounts of Jeanne's nudity, at least in my opinion, was not the pandering, titillating fanservice that we've become accustomed to today in harem series or onsen episodes that is intended exclusively for straight male gaze. This kind of fanservice tends to use close-ups of jiggling breasts or sexual poses to excite the audience. On the other hand, in Belladonna, the nudity rarely focused solely on Jeanne's breasts and featured the nudity more as an expression initially of her sexual trauma (e.g. the rape scene, the scene where her green cloak was torn up), but then ultimately of her ownnership of herself as a self-empowered sexual being (e.g. the scenes where she has sexual conduct with the Devil, the scene with the orgy she facilitates, the sex scene with Jean). As such, I did not find the nudity in the movie to be exploitative, but instead a mark of Jeanne's liberation from the establishment and I personally cannot see the film as anything but radically feminist, doubly so given the fact that it was a 1973 Japanese animated movie: a time, place, and medium still very unaccustomed to the notion of feminism.
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Zin5ki
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2016 12:51 pm Reply with quote
enurtsol wrote:
AGE POLICY

18 and up; Children 6 and up will be allowed only with an adult. No children under the age of 6 will be allowed.[/i]

I imagine that arthouse cinemas have little reason to be especially thorough with their compliance to age restrictions. I imagine the situation is comparable to smaller art galleries, which exhibit the most explicit of material without requesting any identification. Their audiences seem to self-select: visitors are either adults or otherwise mature enough to be present anyway.

horseradish wrote:
Film submissions to Motion Picture Association of America are voluntary

If only other nations had such tolerant censors!
spoiler[I do like your user name, on a separate note. Horseradish is most delectable.]
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Chrno2



Joined: 28 May 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2016 2:18 pm Reply with quote
Now the question is do you get boozed up or watch this and feel like you're drinking. I never would have thought of this film as being X-rated for an anime. But I guess there's lots of stuff in there that would say otherwise.

We'll be ordering our copy so I'll check it out when it comes. I would also like to mention that the same company that is releasing the film is also releasing an artbook for it as well. Which is a plus in my book considering that you don't often get old time releases like this accompanied by such a bonus. So we're getting that as well.

Belladonna of Sadness: A Companion Book to the 1973 Cult Japanese Anime Film

Now this is what you call a release.
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