Review: Belladonna of Sadness (Japan 1973)

Wow, that was one hell of an acid trip of a movie. A remaster and re-release of an early animated film produced by Osamu Tezuka, this film is completely unique, the closest comparison being the more outré works of Ralph Bakshi like Heavy Traffic or Wizards, or the folkloric prologue to Watership Down.

The style is highly psychedelic, with gorgeous watercolor backgrounds and very limited animation, and clearly inspired by the paintings of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Honestly, the film is so outside of what is traditionally thought of as “anime” that viewers might be forgiven for doubting its provenance from Japan, if it did not fall directly in line with the ero-guro tradition.

Story-wise, the plot is something of a mish-mash between traditions of witchcraft and the Joan of Arc story, but the plot is somewhat lost in the constant parade of hypersexual grotesqueries, not that it really matters. I don’t know I can really say it is good, but it definitely needs to be seen to be believed – something truly original.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars (Good).  Part of Japan Cuts 2015.

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