Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Cinelicious Pics - BELLADONNA OF SADNESS on Blu-ray ""

Friday, July 8, 2016

Cinelicious Pics - BELLADONNA OF SADNESS on Blu-ray

BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (1973; Eiichi Yamamoto)
Back in the late 70s and early 80s when I was a kid, I used to watch this PBS show called GATHER 'ROUND. If you were a youngster around that time you probably remember it because of its distinct visual style. Ultimately, it was just a narrator telling classic old tales like Rapunzel, Cinderlla and The Ugly Duckling, while a woman drew pictures of the stories in colored chalk. Considering how simple it was, this was a surprisingly effective way to tell stories. Moving the camera over a still image with the narrator doing voices worked perfectly well and often gave me a sense of unease when the stories dipped into scarier areas. As you each image was slowly revealed, sometimes there would be something macabre that became apparent and could be genuinely frightening. It reminds me a bit of those pictures in the front room of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. You know, the ones that had seemingly pleasant pictures that were eventually exposed to be the precarious moments just before each person in the drawing was to meet their doom. I only bring up these two examples because this film, though it is really not like anything I've seen before, has a unique animation style that is reminiscent of that same kind of thing. The other touchstone film that came to mind while I was watching BELLADONNA OF SADNESS was Rene LaLoux's FANTASTIC PLANET (which of course just got the Blu-ray treatment from Criterion this past month). While FANTASTIC PLANET used the amazing cut-out animation technique to achieve its specific, otherworldly look - BELLADONNA's aesthetics are an inventive, kaleidoscopic blend of water colors, sketches and oil paintings that give it its disarming and often psychedelic representation of the universe. Both films are mind-bending and a little strange in a way that makes them stand out. That said, BELLADONNA is so sharply different in terms of its tone that it becomes difficult to compare it to FANTASTIC PLANET beyond the fact they are both visually unique in terms of their approach to the animation itself. BELLADONNA is much more dreamlike (or nightmarish) and surreal for sure. It is also much more erotic and perverse than FANTASTIC PLANET (whose sexuality is much more muted overall). The story is basically that of a woman who has the devil appear before her and grant her the power to become a witch. The devil is incredibly phallic in appearance and there is some emphasis on that via his interaction with the woman. The sexual component of BELLADONNA ends up making it a much tougher watch than FANTASTIC PLANET. This has primarily to do with the treatment of its main character. She is raped by an evil lord within the first few minutes of the movie and it sets things on a very dark path. It is a tale of a personal hell and how awful a pact with the devil could really be. In this case, there is a lot of rape imagery and even though it is often very abstract and stylized, it is disturbing nonetheless. Make no mistake, this is a film for adults. The movie isn't called BELLADONNA OF SADNESS for nothing, as it is quite tragic and melancholy. As I said though, the hell of dealing with the devil can be unpleasant and torturous and this movie depicts that in it's own wild way. One thing I did love about it was the tendency to pan across still images for effect. Often there are these seemingly endless panning tableaus that give the effect of showing the passage of time in a really neat way. The film on the whole really is pretty singular in terms of animation cinema. It's a truly bizarre and borderline experimental narrative at times and that makes for one heck of a crazy trip.
Cinelicious Pics (a company you should really keep an eye on) did a 4K restoration of the film from the original negative and it looks gorgeous on this new Blu-ray. Not quite at the level of YELLOW SUBMARINE Blu-ray loveliness, but that also has to do with the differences in the filmmaking and color palettes of both of those films. BELLADONNA looks remarkably god though and the restoration clearly made a big difference. Here is a side by side video demonstrating the before and after:
In addition to the picture quality, Cinelicious also restored eight minutes to the feature that had been seemingly lost in earlier versions. They've really achieved something quite remarkable here in resurrecting this lost film from the ashes. What they have done is helped bring back a truly one-of-a-kind cinematic experience that adventurous cinephiles will find absolutely unforgettable.

Special Features:
Cinelicious didn't stop with the a nice looking transfer, they went one further and have included a few nice supplements as well:
- New Video Interviews with Director Eiichi Yamamoto, Art Director Kuni Fukai, and Composer Masahiko Satoh.

Please note: below is the Red Band trailer for BELLADONNA OF SADNESS. It may not be safe for work - just FYI:

BELLADONNA OF SADNESS can be ordered directly from Cinelicious here:
It can also be purchased through Amazon:

1 comment:

beamish13 said...

One of the most important releases of the year. It's also being bundled with a coffee table art book. Cinelicious has a lot of great projects in the pipeline, including the phenomenal Funeral Parade of Roses