With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

ACF 766: "Onibaba" at Japan Society, New York this Friday, November 12th, 2010

Nobuko Otowa (left, in mask) and Jitsuko Yoshimura
in Onibaba © 1964 Toho Co., Ltd.

Written and Directed by Kaneto Shindo
With Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Sato,
Jukichi Uno, and Taiji Tonoyama
Japan, 1964, 103 minutes, B&W
In Japanese with English subtitles
Showtime: Friday, November 12, 2010 at 7:30 PM
(Print Courtesy The Japan Foundation with permission Janus Films)

Japan Society (333 East 47th Street, between 1st and 2nd avenues, NYC) will be presenting this classic film on Friday, November 12, 2010 at 7:30 PM.

Kaneto Shindo's tenebrous classic puts the spotlight on the savage appetites of two women. Nestled in a seemingly endless sea of swaying reeds during the war-ravaged days of 16th century Japan, a hard-bitten mother (Nobuko Otowa) and her young daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) lead the nefarious existence of marauders, murdering the stray soldiers and lost samurai who wander into the wilderness surrounding their hut, selling their war gear for rice, and dumping down their corpses down a deep, dark pit.

Yoshimura, Otowa, and Sato (lfeft to right)

When their rough and rugged neighbor (Kei Sato) returns from war, conflicting ferocious passions threaten to shatter the women’s sinister partnership, and soon… the newly formed trio’s precarious cohabitation.

Intensely erotic and steeped in Buddhist symbolism, Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba is both a macabre parable on modern-day consumerism, and a lyrical morality play on the dark power of primal desires.

Otowa (top) & Yoshimura (below) asleep on a hot evening

$12 general public/$9 Japan Society members, students & seniors

Buy Tickets Online or call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 6 pm, Weekends 11 am - 5 pm.

Part of the Zen & Its Opposite: Essential (& Turbulent) Japanese Art House film series.

Each film illustrates one or several of the "Six Planes of Existence"—a Buddhist concept commonly referred to as “Six Paths” (Rokudō or Rokudō-rinne) in Japan—within “the realm of Birth and Death” (Samsara).

Yoshimura gleefully runs through the tall grass

The Realm of the Animals: a condition of servitude in which one is governed by instinct, and in which one has no sense of morality and lives only for the present. In this state, one will not shrink from preying on weaker beings for personal gain.

ACF comments: Kaneto Shindo is a prolific screenplay writer and film director. At the age of 98 (!) he and his 45th directorial effort Postcard were recently honored at the Tokyo International Film Festival with a special jury prize. (Read more about that at the Toronto J-FIlm Pow-Wow blog by clicking here.)

Shindo also wrote the screenplay for
Hachiko monogatari, a movie about the incredible dedication of a dog to its master. That film was recently remade as Hachi: A Dog's Tale, a very good movie, even though it starred Richard Gere for whom I usually have no use.

Onibaba is most-certainly the film that Shindo is best known for here in the West. Although the Demon mask is perhaps the single thing with which the film is most associated, it's really a movie about survival and sensuality. And it's a cinematic masterpiece. It's available on DVD from Criterion, if you can't make it to Friday's screening, so you have no excuse for not seeing it. And see it you should.

ACF Rating: 4 out of 4 stars, highest recommendation, an absolute must-see.

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