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Kuroneko (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)

Kichiemon Nakamura , Nobuko Otowa , Kaneto Shindo    Unrated   Blu-ray

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Product Description

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.

SPECIAL EDITION 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
136 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let This 'Black Cat' Cross Your Path... Aug. 18 2011
By 4-Legged Defender - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
[KURONEKO aka BLACK CAT - (1968) - Directed by Kaneto Shindo - Widescreen Presentation] From the director of 'Onibaba' and 'The Island', this genuinely creepy, atmospheric (and somewhat obscure) classic finally gets a stateside release; even more blessed are we that it's getting the Criterion treatment. Riding the critical wave after 'Onibaba' was released, Kaneto Shindo, along with Kiyomi Kuroda, whose award-winning cinematography sets the tone for this film, brilliantly delivers the chills with an underlying tragic story of lost love and revenge, and its Chiaroscuro/Noir visuals are nothing short of breathtaking.

In feudal Japan, a warring group of marauding Samurai seeking food emerge from the dense forest when they come across a house that should have what they require. Upon entering the house, they find it indeed has what they want and a whole lot more...it has women as well. The inhabitants, an elderly woman and her young daughter-in-law are both subjected to continuous sexual assault as each Samurai takes his turn while others plunder the women's food stocks. After the Samurai have satiated their appetites, they leave the women, now unconscious, for dead and set fire to their home as they flee. When the fire eventually burns out, all we see are the burned and battered bodies of the women amid the ruins and their vulnerable black kitten as it licks their charred bodies, a dark and grisly moment captured purrrfectly.

Later on, one night a Samurai approaches on horseback and is met by the spectral vision of a woman, who tells him she is too frightened to make her journey home because she has to pass the Bamboo Grove, which is a known haven for bandits and highwaymen. The Samurai agrees to accompany her to her home, where he is plied with sake. The woman then proceeds to seduce the Samurai before brutally attacking him, devouring his throat and sucking his blood...for we then learn that the two women are in fact Bakeneko, newly embodied catlike vampire spirits of the dead women murdered by the Samurai, who have made a pact with the evil spirits, granting them restored life on the condition that they murder all Samurai who pass their way. These nightmarish acts continue until a young man victorious in war is hired to hunt down the vampires, but he soon realizes to his horror that these creatures are the vengeful souls of his mother and wife who died while he was off at war. He is now torn between his lord, who orders him to rid the forest of ghosts or else he will be killed, and his mother and wife's ethereal forms whom he loves and couldn't possibly fathom killing.

Though it may not sound like it, this film is rife with indelible, grotesque imagery that will stay with you forever, yet maintains a Kabuki play arthouse quality right through to the tense final moments. The swamp location is a perfect setting for the film to take place and director Shindo takes full advantage of it, especially during the scenes where the younger of the two women is leading the stray, egotistical Samurai to their inevitable deaths. If you enjoyed 'Onibaba', 'Kwaidan', or even the more recent 'Kaidan' (a modern retelling of this type of flick), you're certain to appreciate this one. Let this 'Black Cat' cross your path and your luck's bound to be good...
67 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare & Welcome Aug. 16 2011
By J. L. Sharp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
This is a film I have only seen on a crappy foreign bootleg copy --the picture was washed out and even muddy in patches and the sound was boxy, but the shortcomings of the poor transfer (from who knows what sources) were soon forgotten as I was immersed in the masterful storytelling and lovely atmospheric world of the filmmakers. This is a classic, old-school, Japanese ghost story, told at a measured pace and more creepy than shocking (which means it may not hold the attention of restless viewers who demand a rock'em-sock'em, CGI rollercoaster ride, and OMG --it's in black & white!), but it's just my cup of tea. I look forward to seeing this film decently presented, and you can always count on Criterion to get the job done.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Cat Nov. 2 2011
By Mr. Andrew Elphick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I was blown away by this film.

I have really enjoyed films by Akira Kurosawa and wanted to branch out to other Japanese Director's work.

I bought this on a whim.

Its a haunting story that is tragic and romantic. Its also very sexy in its own way.

if you want to take chance and watch something startling and unique please give this film try.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning & drenched with atmosphere Jan. 15 2012
By William Timothy Lukeman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Previous reviewers have justly praised this film at length, and I'm glad to add my praise to theirs. Simply put, this Japanese tale puts modern attempts at horror to shame. Filmed in gorgeous black & white, utilizing the most basic of special effects, and suffused with a powerful erotic & psychological current that strikes to the heart of the viewer, it draws you in deeper & deeper until the eerily still & silent end.

What makes it so memorable?

First of all, it offers strong characters with powerful, contradictory emotional drives. Torn between family, honor, religious & social demands, they recognize the trap they're in, one determined by outside forces they've internalized. Yet they're unable to resolve those contradictions & save themselves. This sense of the inexorable only grows stronger as the story progresses.

So our young farmer-turned-samurai is faced with the bloodthirsty ghosts of his wife & mother, who have vowed to destroy all samurai, but retain enough of their memories & humanity to want to spare him. For his part, he relishes his rise in social status, yet desperately wants to be reunited with his wife & mother, partly out of guilt for not being there to save them.

Then there's the cinematography & the bold direction of Kaneto Shindo, making superb use of dense masses of shadow & sudden pools of unearthly light. There's a minimum of gore & gratuitous shock; instead, the emphasis is on atmosphere & tension, brought to a slow & almost unbearable boil. It has a dreamlike quality, one that can turn from haunted beauty to outright nightmare in an instant. In a way, I'm reminded of Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast" -- there's the same sense of some ancient folk tale retold in strangely intimate terms -- but where Cocteau properly brings his film to a deserved fairy tale conclusion, Shindo ventures into darker & more ambiguous territory.

As with his previous "Onibaba" (which is the perfect companion to "Kuroneko"), Shindo's sympathies are with the women. For all their visual beauty, his films don't glamorize the samurai, or men in general. His concern is more with those who have to suffer the consequences of living in a world shaped by masculine hungers; thus even his historical films speak eloquently to the present.

Most highly recommended!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Expressionistic, Supernatural Experience Nov. 25 2011
By Gerard D. Launay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
It has been a long, long time since I have seen a film and became so enthralled with it that I chose to watch the same movie the very next day.

The film begins with a view of a forest as white fog glides through the trees. A kodo drum beats furiously...this changes to the sound of a cats' claw on a brick wall, then the sound becomes an eerie rattle. A quiet cottage by the edge of a bamboo glade is a scene of peace. Very silently, we see twenty poor samurai who emerge from the bamboo, drink like beasts from a spring, then discover the cottage, Inside the home are two peasant woman who farm for a living. After stealing their food, gang raping and leaving the females for dead, the warriors maliciously burn the cottage to the ground. Only a black cat remains, licking at the womens' bodies.

These two women, a mother and her daughter-in-law, become cat spirits who can shape shift into their former selves, albeit with strange cat eyebrows. In the next world, they pleaded with the god of evil to let them live as vampires so that they could wreak vengeance and bring death to all the samurai. Their aim is to lure the warriors into their forest home, seduce them, then tear out their throats. When victim and victim pile up, the cat spirits discover that the newest samurai they have targeted turns out to be the older woman's treasured son and the younger woman's dear husband. Alas, alas, he has been given the difficult instruction by his lord to rid the land of the cat ghosts. How can he do this?

The black and white photography is moody, sensual, abstract, expressionistic...and absolutely sensational. The contrast between pitch black and silver light creates a sense of the otherworld - a technique perfectly suited to a ghost story. But this film is really NOT a horror film - it is closer to a Kabuki theater piece or perhaps a morality play. The difference between good and evil is ambiguous.

Consider just one scene - the ghosts' first victim is a samurai who had earlier been one of the men who raped and murdered them. As he enters their magical home, the trees surrounding the house move as if on a round carousel. The breeze creates ripples of sound - rustling leaves and whispers. The director recreates a Grimm's Fairy Tale translated to Feudal Japan.

This one is a keeper...a film I wish to study for its magnificent effects. (Given the choice, DO select the Blu-Ray version).

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