"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Janus Releases Kaneto Shindo's KURONEKO

©1968 Toho Co., Ltd. Art: ©2010 Sam Smith/Janus Films.

One of the mainstays of traditional Japanese folklore and the subject of scores of motion pictures since the silent era, including Nobuo Nakagawa's MANSION OF THE GHOST CAT (1958), the Kaibyo or Bakeneko, is a monstrous Yokai feline, possessed by the violent spirit of a woman, which takes vengeance upon the murderers and their families. Kaneto Shindo's 1968 film, known in Japan as THE BLACK CAT IN THE GROVE (Yabu-no-naka-no Kuroneko) is a masterpiece of the genre, and while previously released on DVD in the UK by Eureka Entertainment's "Masters of Cinema" line in 2005 (and in Japan by Pioneer in 2001), KURONEKO will finally be getting its due in North America — and it's about time!

Just when you thought it was safe to pet the kitty again, Janus Films is following up its theatrical release of Nobuhiko Obayashi's HOUSE (1977) with a new 35 mm print of Shindo's KURONEKO (Black Cat). This 1968 ghost story from master of dreamlike terror Shindo (who also directed the Halloween must-see ONIBABA) is an eerie, atmospheric horror story unlike any other, a Noh-inspired spook tale full of incredible imagery. Shindo's horror masterpiece stars Kichiemon Nakamura (CHUSHINGURA), Nobuko Otowa (ONIBABA), Kiwako Taichi (ZATOICHI IN DESPERATION), and Kei Sato (HARAKIRI).

In war-torn medieval Japan, a demon haunts the Rajomon Gate, ripping out the throats of samurai in the bamboo grove beyond. The governor sends a war hero to confront the spirit, but what the man finds are two beautiful women who look just like his lost mother and wife. Both a chilling ghost story and a meditation on the nature of war and social hypocrisy, KURONEKO is the second horror triumph from director Kaneto Shindo (ONIBABA), who mixes stunning visuals (photographed by Kiyomi Kuroda and edited by Hisao Enoki), an evocative score by Hikaru Hayashi (DOUBLE SUICIDE), and influences from Noh theater to create an atmospheric, haunting, and emotionally devastating masterpiece.

Janus Films' new 35mm print of KURONEKO opens at New York’s Film Forum on October 22nd, before expanding to other cities, including Boston, Portland, and Los Angeles, in the following weeks. Check out the official Janus Films' KURONEKO page for updates, locations, and information! Beware! The Black Cat may be coming to your town!

UPDATE: SEE! The English Subtitled Original Japanese Trailer from Janus Films, HERE!