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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Belladonna of Sadness aka "Kanashimi no Beradonna" [Blu-ray]

 

(Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Nippon Herald Films

Video: Cinelicious Pics

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:27:18.750 

Disc Size: 41,276,465,312 bytes

Feature Size: 22,538,944,512 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.66 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: July 12th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 1044 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1044 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 1800 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1800 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, None

 

Extras:

• New Video Interviews with Director Eiichi Yamamoto (23:20), Art Director Kuni Fukai (16:51,) and Composer Masahiko Satoh (27:20)
Red Band Trailer (2:35), Green Band Trailer (1:31), Original Trailer (2:58)
16 page booklet

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: One of the great lost masterpieces of Japanese animation, never before officially released in the U.S., BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is a mad, swirling, psychedelic light-show of medieval tarot-card imagery with horned demons, haunted forests and La Belle Dame Sans Merci with J.R.R. Tolkien influences. The last film in the Animerama trilogy produced by the godfather of Japanese anime & manga, Osamu Tezuka and directed by his longtime collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (ASTRO BOY and KIMBA THE WHITE LION), BELLADONNA unfolds as a series of spectacular still watercolor paintings that bleed and twist together. A young woman, Jeanne (voiced by Aiko Nagayama) is assaulted by the local lord on her wedding night. To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself (voiced by Tatsuya Nakadai, from Akira Kurosawa's RAN) who appears as a sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire.

Extremely transgressive, BELLADONNA is fueled by a mind-blowing Japanese psych rock soundtrack by noted avant-garde jazz composer Masahiko Satoh. The film has been newly restored by Cinelicious Pics using the original 35 mm camera negative and sound elements and including over 8 minutes of surreal footage cut from the negative. On par with Rene Laloux's FANTASTIC PLANET and Ralph Bakshi's WIZARDS as an LSD-stoked 1970s head trip, BELLADONNA marks a major rediscovery for animation fans. If Led Zeppelin had a favorite film, this would be it. In other words, Stairway to Hell.

 

 

 

The Film:

To summarize this film is to present a solid argument that it’s one of the most unusual ever made: “Belladonna of Sadness,” making its New York premiere on Friday, is a 1973 Japanese erotic animated musical inspired by the 19th-century French historian Jules Michelet’s account of witchery in the Middle Ages.

The reality of the movie, directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, is odder still. Opening with a jazz-rock song and lyrical, static imagery of attractive Western figures in watercolor, it features narration telling of Jean and Jeanne, young French provincial marrieds “smiled upon by God.” But not for long. Jeanne is subjected to a brutal, surrealistically rendered gang rape by the village lord and his claque. The film then lays out an imaginative, and sometimes overwrought, narrative exegesis, positing that the power of feminine sexuality is essentially demonic. While weaving thread one afternoon, post-trauma, Jeanne is visited by a small, phallus-shaped imp.

Are you the Devil?” she asks.

I am you,” he replies. Thus begins Jeanne’s triumph and ruin.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

 

But for all its outré female sexuality/empowerment/critique of materialism tropes that may seem dated, it is how the narrative gets there – well, that is where the rubber meets the road. Visually, the film blends intricate, phantasmagoric, acid-trip animation with camera pans over gorgeous, watercolor-infused static paintings. Aurally, it gets even better with Masahiko Satô’s amazing psych rock/free jazz score coupled with a number of original songs that propel the plot. And then there’s the sex: orgies, numerous couplings with the Devil, a snail having congress with a clam, bunnies shooting out of anuses, penises erecting into literal giraffes. And that is just off the top of my head. I would caution those with a tendency to clutch their pearls at the sight of impropriety that, even by contemporary standards, there are some pretty transgressive episodes. But for those up for an adventure into the LSD-influenced world of counterculture animation, Belladonna of Sadness is a curious artifact that, after 43 years, remains a glorious mindfuck.

Excerpt from The Austin Chronicle located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The dual-layered Cinelicious Pics Blu-ray of Belladonna of Sadness is from a recent 4K restoration and looks marvelous in 1080P. Not only are colors vibrant but the higher resolution has assisted in capturing the film's unique style and grace. It has a very high bitrate and looks superb in-motion with all the film's quirks and experimental shifts. It's clean with no noise and hints of texture (original 35mm elements) are prevalent. This Blu-ray gave me a very watchable, and occasionally jaw-dropping, viewing in regards to the picture quality.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Cinelicious Pics use a DTS-HD Master mono track at 1044 kbps or the option of a more robust stereo DTS-HD - both in original Japanese and both 24-bit. Dialogue is minimal and the film is "fueled by a mind-blowing Japanese psych rock soundtrack by noted avant-garde jazz composer Masahiko Satoh". It sounds excellent - with due credit to Satoh - some very odd chords but it seems to work beautifully with the film. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Cinelicious offer some solid extras with new video interviews (over an hour's worth!) with director Eiichi Yamamoto (23:20), art director Kuni Fukai (16:51,) and composer Masahiko Satoh (27:20) - all aged and classy describing their lives and careers plus we get trailers and a liner notes 16 page booklet included.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I had never seen Belladonna of Sadness and was blown away by the visual marriage of water colors, inert sexuality, the rich, mixed, score... it was wonderful. I was very impressed. The Cinelicious Pics Blu-ray
seems the only way to see this gem in 1080P unless you attend one of the screenings. I was thoroughly entertained by this unique and poetic film. Strongly Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

July 5th, 2016

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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