Sunday, November 20, 2005

Onibaba (1964)

Creepy, dark fable set during a war that never seems to end about a scavenging mother and daughter and the havoc wreaked upon their lives when a neighbor returns home from the war. It's a film of monsters and monstrousness -- director Kaneto Shindo obviously feels very cynical about the ingrained parts of the human survival instinct, but at the same time he acknowledges them as necessary evils in times of need. The film's casual treatment of nudity is at first a bit shocking, simply because titillation isn't the issue (the sexuality here is as matter-of-fact as Nanook of the North); later, it becomes doubly shocking when the destructive nature of this otherwise-innocuous sexuality is allowed to flower. The rich, stark cinematography is an immense asset (between this and Woman in the Dunes, it was a good year for stylish allegory in Japan); the last line is absolute in its perfection and its disturbing implications.

Grade: A-


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