Fantasia 2010: KURONEKO Review

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Fantasia 2010: KURONEKO Review
Hypnotic, entrancing and deeply theatrical, Fantasia presents a retrospective screening of Kaneto Shindo's 1968 classic Kuroneko as a reminder of a different era. Presented on a gorgeous archival print, Kuroneko remains every bit as vital today as it must have been the day it was produced and provides another argument that Shindo - also responsible of Onibaba - truly deserves to be acclaimed one of the world's great masters.

Deeply steeped in Japan's traditional theater and folklore, Kuroneko's plot is a simple one when stripped to its essentials. After a young man is taken away to war - leaving his wife and mother with no male protector in the house - a band of ragged samurai stumble across the women. The samurai drink their water, eat their food and ultimately rape the pair repeatedly, burning the house down to mask their crime as they leave. The bodies of the women are left to the elements, the household cat eventually eating them and absorbing their rage. And so a pair of malevolent spirits are born - beautiful but deadly ghosts preying upon samurai from the nearby capital, luring the men away into the nearby forest where their throats are torn out and their blood drunk. When the young man returns home to great acclaim he is, of course, set the task of finding and destroying the creature preying upon the samurai only to learn that tragic truth that they are the souls of his mother and wife.

Shindo is an absolute master of light and shadow, shooting his film in high contrast black and white while manipulating extreme lighting and mists to lace the entire affair with an ethereal, otherworldly quality. He creates his world effortlessly, with minimal dialogue and minimal sets, proving that mood and rhythm and light are all you really need to create a completely compelling world. The entire cast is stellar, the script neatly balancing elements of horror with tragic romance. Already available on DVD in the UK as part of Eureka's stellar Masters Of Cinema series we can only hope that the Janus logo on the front of the print screened here is an indication that Criterion will soon be giving it a release in North America. It is more than deserving.


  • Kaneto Shindô
  • Kaneto Shindô
  • Kichiemon Nakamura
  • Nobuko Otowa
  • Kei Satô
  • Rokkô Toura
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Kaneto ShindôKichiemon NakamuraNobuko OtowaKei SatôRokkô TouraDramaFantasyHorror

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