Cyborg report week 4: Watching movies, reading, and recuperating has been the name of the game, although I have once more begun writing in something akin to my old routine. In between, I have spent a great deal of time catching up on movies and various series that I've missed over the last year. Today's post will cover the movies, so here are a few that I've watched:
KURONEKO (Kaneto Shindo): In war-torn Japan, a mother and daughter-in-law are murdered by marauding samurai. They swear their souls to the spirits so they can have the power to return as ghosts and take their vengeance on all samurai--that is until the daughter-in-law's husband returns as a samurai. Rather than murder him, the daughter-in-law gives her soul to the spirits and descends into Hell for a chance to love her husband one more time.
Like Kurosawa, Shindo is the master of mood with gorgeously shot scenes and entire sequences where the emotion is conveyed without a word being spoken. My favorite scenes were when the daughter-in-law seduces the samurai in order to murder them. While she makes love to the men, the mother dances in the shadows. During the killing of random samurai, the mother's movements are sharp and decisive, her gaze is hard. But when the daughter-in-law seduces her son again, the mother's movements are sad and slow. It is a magnificent performance by Nobuko Otowa.
ONIBABA (Kaneto Shindo): More war-torn Japan for you, but where KURONEKO was a ghost story, ONIBABA is true horror. The film is set within wind-swept marshes in a remote location, where a mother and her daughter-in-law murder lost samurai for their armor. The pair dump the corpses down a deep, dark hole, and then sell the armor for grain. The story takes off when a bedraggled neighbor returns from the war and tells the daughter-in-law that her husband is dead. The neighbor then seduces the daughter, drawing her away from her mother-in-law, who cannot survive without the girl's help.
When people discuss horror, they rarely use the word lyrical, but I've found some of the most evocative and memorable horror has combined the power of poetry with dark symbolism. Shindo uses the rustling reeds to evoke everything from dread to erotica, and the emotional entanglement of the characters tightens like a noose in every scene. The supernatural aspects don't show up until late in the film, and rather than detract from the story, the ill-gotten demon mask is made more horrific by the mother's descent into madness.
NIGHT AND FOG (Alain Resnais): A thirty minute documentary, which was filmed ten years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, NIGHT AND FOG combines images from the overgrown camps with Nazi footage of the active camps. Resnais creates a poignant memorial to those who died while juxtaposing the past with the present as a warning to future generations.
RAN (Akira Kurosawa): This is one of my favorite Kurosawa movies, but not so much for the King Lear story trajectory. The true joy of RAN is Lady Kaede, played by Mieko Harada. She is not seen until about a quarter of the way into the movie, and then her role is small; however, as the plot progresses, Lady Kaede's role grows into a malignant flame that consumes everyone with her desire for revenge. She is patient as an adder and just as deadly. Her knowledge of human nature allows her to manipulate the men and achieve her goals. Mieko Harada is positively riveting in the role. The movie is a must-see for her performance alone.
KUNG FU PANDA 3 (Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson): Don't judge me. It was cute. I haven't seen the first two movies, so I can't really contrast them against the third, but KUNG FU PANDA 3 did have a few laugh out loud moments.