584 Kuroneko

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Jeff
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584 Kuroneko

#1 Post by Jeff » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:14 pm

Kuroneko

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In this poetic and atmospheric horror fable, set in a village in war-torn medieval Japan, a malevolent spirit has been ripping out the throats of itinerant samurai. When a military hero is sent to dispatch the unseen force, he finds that he must struggle with his own personal demons as well. From Kaneto Shindo, director of the terror classic Onibaba, Kuroneko (Black Cat) is a spectacularly eerie twilight tale with a shocking feminist angle, evoked through ghostly special effects and exquisite cinematography.

Disc Features

- New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Video interview with director Kaneto Shindo from the Directors Guild of Japan
- New video interview with critic Tadao Sato
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Maitland McDonagh and an excerpt from film scholar Joan Mellen’s 1972 interview with Shindo

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#2 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:19 pm

The features here are pretty weak for something that's been on the burner for so long- hopefully the MoC will better this one.

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triodelover
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#3 Post by triodelover » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:27 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:The features here are pretty weak for something that's been on the burner for so long- hopefully the MoC will better this one.
Has an MoC Blu been announced/tweeted/hinted at?

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med
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#4 Post by med » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:30 pm

Other than not being in HD, the only thing the MoC release has that this one does not is a Doug Cummings essay.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#5 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:32 pm

triodelover wrote:
matrixschmatrix wrote:The features here are pretty weak for something that's been on the burner for so long- hopefully the MoC will better this one.
Has an MoC Blu been announced/tweeted/hinted at?
I was sure it had been, but I can't actually find anything to back that up, so I might just have been confused (maybe thinking of Island of Lost Souls)

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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#6 Post by What A Disgrace » Sat Jul 16, 2011 11:07 am

Does anybody know how long this particular interview with Shindo is? Shindo is one of the few remaining directors of his generation, and I'd hope this interview covered his 70+ year career, and not just this one film.

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Minkin
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#7 Post by Minkin » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:48 pm


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manicsounds
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#8 Post by manicsounds » Mon Sep 26, 2011 11:45 pm

Awesome, the 1 hour full interview really pushes this up to a must upgrade from the Masters Of Cinema.

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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#9 Post by Jack Phillips » Wed Oct 19, 2011 3:19 pm

My copy arrived, and, quickly purusing the booklet, I see that the full title of the film is Yabu no naka no kuroneko which is given in the booklet as "Black Cat From the Grove" but which, according to my Japanese colleagues, is better rendered as "Black Cat From Within a Bamboo Grove." Interestingly, Yabu no naka is the title of the famous story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa that was the basis for most of Rashomon. I am also reliably informed that the expression yabu no naka is used idiomatically to convey the idea of impenetrability or unknowingness, as in "That murder we are reading about in the paper is yabu no naka." I would imagine that Shindo chose his title carefully for the resonance it would convey. In any case, I am now really stoked to view the film.

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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#10 Post by skeets kelly » Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:06 pm

is anyone else having a problem playing the blu-ray?

i'm assuming it's because i have the worst player ever (pioneer bdp-330), but i'm just checking to make sure.

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Drucker
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#11 Post by Drucker » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:44 pm

Just watched this film for the first time and wanted to heap praise upon it. Sensational visually with interesting editing that added to the terror and ambiance of the film. I really want to note: it was a lot scarier than I imagined it would be (not a horror movie fan/easily scared), and did an excellent job in every part of the film: a beautiful first part, an interesting, brief and to the point set-up of a plot, great rising action and a fantastic ending.

Personally, as I continue my still new journey of digging into cinema, to get beyond Naruse/Kuro/Ozu/Mizo...I didn't quite know what to expect and how much I'd appreciate it. But after seeing this film, I am certain many of my next purchases will be Kobayashi, Suzuki, Ichikawa, Shindo and others.

Does anyone know (I haven't read the booklet yet) if this is set in the same time period that Seven Samurai would have been? Are there any good books that discuss the history of Japan and how cinema depicts it?

Also, in the subtitling: Rajomon = Rashomon, right?

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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#12 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:43 am

Also, in the subtitling: Rajomon = Rashomon, right?
More or less.

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manicsounds
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Re: 584 Kuroneko

#13 Post by manicsounds » Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:56 pm

Drucker wrote:Also, in the subtitling: Rajomon = Rashomon, right?
Nope. They are written differently in Japanese as well.

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Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#14 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:32 pm

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#15 Post by Black Hat » Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:39 am

This was my first Shindo film and I came away thoroughly impressed with an appetite for more. A fairly simple story with a somewhat farcical premise revealed itself to be a scathing indictment of Japanese nationalism and its male dominated culture. A masterpiece of cinematography and mood that transported you away from the story by bringing you closer to its underlying ideas. The clear question I have is on its ending,
SpoilerShow
to me it seemed like madly flinging his sword screaming mother before perishing was an allusion to the many senseless killings perpetrated by samurai in the name of Japan.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#16 Post by swo17 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:10 am

Do we need to use spoiler tags here?

I too have a question about the ending. Gintoki's sole task at the end is to keep the ghost from retrieving her arm. He locks himself up in a temple, and should know that the ghost will stop at nothing to try to get inside, including perhaps changing her appearance. And even if someone successfully conned their way inside under the guise of not being the ghost, surely their cover would be blown as soon as they started asking questions about the arm. So why does Gintoki fall for this trick?

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#17 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:37 am

I don't know if the film is a complex indictment of the political dimensions of samurai culture, or even of gender really. Everything is simplified, deliberately I would guess given the fable-like quality of the story. What interests me are the ambiguities.

It's interesting how Japanese ghosts are so much more physical than the ethereal western ghosts: they're beings who can assume corporeality enough to carry on a love affair. This is something I noticed in Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films, too, especially Retribution. The two ghosts, tho', resolve into a binary stereotypical of Japan: women as dragon-ladies and/or meek self-sacrificers. On the one hand, the ghosts are plainly images of predatory femaleness, feigning modesty and weakness but using sexuality, alcohol, and feral strength to trick and subdue men, to exploit male weakness. They represent a fear men would construct. But the daughter, at least, is also the meek self-sacrificer, sacrificing her soul to eternal damnation for a week of love--which is touching, no doubt, but on the rather extreme end of women who sacrifice themselves for men.

Here's where the odd ambiguities come in: the wife is immediately taken as a lover, but the mother is pushed aside. Our Samurai hero hardly seems to care about his mother, he's so consumed by lust for his dead wife (that he's technically a necrophile at this point doesn't disturb him much, either). But once the wife is gone, the mother quickly becomes the antagonist, taking up the conventional role of the ghost assaulting our hero. Not a figure of lust, the parent is first thrust into the background, then foregrounds herself with antagonism when the wife has left. So our Samurai hero, much like all the other samurai in the movie, is alternately lusting after and fighting with femaleness. Even a family reunion beyond the grave doesn't break this binary. I don't think this is meant as an allegory of the family, since the mother's antagonism doesn't start until after the daughter leaves. But it's interesting that the two women are parceled into these roles like that.

Our hero is ultimately undone, tho', by the very thing to which he owes his success, his samurai status. If he weren't a samurai, he would never have encountered the ghosts and never have been under bullying political pressure to destroy them. But unlike most fables, this is not intended ironically as the act that assured his fame and fortune is unheroic, yet realistic for all that. And the added fact that his conscription was compulsory removes the element of just retribution, since ambition plainly isn't involved--his status is accidental. In this case, far from ironic, his fate is tragic, the samurai culture having poisoned everything in the story it seems.

The film is a weird mixture of sex and death, with gender roles not being progressive but, oddly, not really regressive either despite the stereotyping. Female victimization is so potent it comes to encompass the victimizers, too. Yet the male who primarily suffers from this retribution, our hero, lost as much from the initial crime as anyone. So does this victimization consume guilty and innocent alike? Is our hero poisoned, unfairly, by an association he's not to blame for? Or is mixing sex and death so explicitly and with so little care for the problems just inevitably destructive, and his crime is really that of being consumed with lust?

I suppose I can't decide if this is a moral fable, a story of erotic fixation and dissolution, both, or what. Fine movie, tho'.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#18 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:39 am

swo17 wrote:Do we need to use spoiler tags here?

I too have a question about the ending. Gintoki's sole task at the end is to keep the ghost from retrieving her arm. He locks himself up in a temple, and should know that the ghost will stop at nothing to try to get inside, including perhaps changing her appearance. And even if someone successfully conned their way inside under the guise of not being the ghost, surely their cover would be blown as soon as they started asking questions about the arm. So why does Gintoki fall for this trick?
No spoiler tags necessary.

Gintoki falls for the trick because it's part of the mechanics of fable. A ghost or demon gaining entrance by tricking the hero (usually by adopting a disguise) is an old, old trope. It doesn't make any psychological sense, but then these kinds of tales tend to use flattened psychologies and rely on structural devices to move the story forward.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#19 Post by swo17 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:48 am

If the ending is steeped in tradition (as opposed to lazy screenwriting) then that helps me appreciate it more, thanks.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#20 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:11 pm

It does make him look kind of stupid, certainly, but when in the movie do we see him as being anything else?

I've seen references to this movie being feminist in several places, which seems unwarranted, but I do think the movie gives a few nice shadings to what could otherwise be a simple opposition between good, silently suffering women and evil, vengeful women. For one, the movie goes out of its way to make the samurai a bunch of jerks, even beyond the original transgression- they're vain, decietful, prone to drunkenness and debauchery, incapable of self honesty, and generally pretty useless. Hachi isn't a bad man (he seems honest and relatively meek around the women, and genuine in his explanation of his motives), but seeking and maintaining samurai status pushes him immediately to lie about his valor, ignore his feelings, put aside his own notions of justice, and serve an obviously terrible (and potentially regicidal) master. For all the horror trappings, we're never particularly upset by any of the samurai killings the two women enact- certainly never as upset as the horrific, yet banal rape and murder in the opening.

It also makes the ghosts relatively complex characters, not mere demons bent on vengeance- Shige folds immediately, of course, but folds out of desire for the pure sexuality (I would say that the way these scenes are shot suggests that the sex is to be seen as lovely and decent, anyway) she seems to share with her husband, rather than any attribute one might normally associate with modest femininity. More movingly, even when enacting the traditional trickster role of the fable, Yone's eyes are brimming with tears- she's clearly not a demon in Yone's shape, but a woman who has retained her human thoughts and memories into ghosthood.

Overall, though, I think the complex characterization of the ghosts and hatred of the samurai felt more like filigree work than anything revolutionary- it shades the underlying story, but doesn't necessarily revolutionize it. That said, even a straight telling of the fable wouldn't hurt this film, as its primary attraction is in being absolutely goddamn gorgeous. I'm a sucker for black and white Tohoscope movies generally, and this one uses the frame beautifully from the beginning, where the swarming samurai approach from the right side of the frame while the house sits tranquilly unmoved in the left. Yone's dancing, the demon cat makeup, the tracking shots of horse, rider, and pedestrian walking through the grove, and even the potentially silly wire work jumping shots all have a poetic quality, aided intensely by the forceful-but-haunting score; it's fun to discuss the politics or the viewpoint of the movie, but honestly its somewhat secondary to what will keep me coming back to it.
Last edited by matrixschmatrix on Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#21 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:58 pm

Man, what the hell, doesn't anyone have anything to say about this one?

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#22 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:05 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Man, what the hell, doesn't anyone have anything to say about this one?
I'm planning a response to your post, but I've been so busy and tired I've been putting it off. Other than that, apparently not.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#23 Post by jindianajonz » Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:36 pm

I think it is kind of curious that we keep picking movies that emphasize differences between classes and also feature characters that with limited choices, with Ciel Est a Vous being the exception to both of these. As Sausage says, Hachi's path is just as pushed on him by samurai as the women's paths were.

I agree with Matrix that the big draw of this film was the cinematography, particularly people on horseback being shot head on or from a far stationary camera situated perpendicularly to the path of movement, the shot of Shige undressing behind a curtain, Hachi lying dead on the snow, and the contrast of the white women against the black samurai. I think it would be easy to think that this color choice presents the women as being "purer" than the samurai, but i believe in Asian cultures the color white doesn't have the same association with purity that it does in the west (though somebody please correct me if I'm wrong). Instead, it is more closely associated with death, in which case the costume choices are very literal but no less effective.

I also wonder what the budget was on this film- it strikes me as doing a wonderful job working with a smaller budget. The sets are much simpler and far fewer than other 60's Japanese horror films (I'm thinking Jigoku and Kwaidan) but I think Shindo does a better job in using them to create a haunting atmosphere than either of the other two. A big part of this is the sheer amount of black that covers the frame most of the time; aside from the scenes with Minamoto and where Hachi kills the enemy samurai, most of the scenes are framed with darkness.

One thing I was curious about is how the prominant the motiff of the black cat was at the beginning of the film, but all but dissapeared in the second half. It was used almost to the point of being excessive early on, and it was kind of surprising that it barely showed up at all in the end.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#24 Post by Drucker » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:09 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Man, what the hell, doesn't anyone have anything to say about this one?
I haven't missed a discussion yet, but was in Florida this past weekend and unable to re-watch the film. I'll be doing this tomorrow night and will lend my two cents.

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Re: Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968)

#25 Post by swo17 » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:18 pm

One thing I really admire about this film is its economy of storytelling. In the middle third of the film, its task is to convey that the pair of ghost women does the same thing over and over again to thin out the ranks of the samurai. And yet this section of the film doesn't feel repetitive--each iteration highlights a different aspect of the "seduction" process and feels fresh.

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